HerdVision User Experiences

Making information on mobility scoring and changes in body condition score more regularly and readily available is having significant benefits for a Cornish family dairy farm who has recently invested in a camera technology.

Close up of a cowBar chart to show cow's BCS scorePie chart to show cow's mobility scoreBox stating the pictured cow has a mobility score of 1.5Box stating the pictured cow has a mobility score of 1.5
Farmer jj-wilcocks stands in a field with his cows.

JJ Willcocks

Like most dairy farmers, JJ Willcocks, and his wife Kiki, who farm at Washaway near Bodmin are required to mobility score his herd of cross-bred cows four times a year. Having previously had this carried out visually by his feed company, he believes the opportunity to automate the process will bring significant management benefits.

“Quarterly mobility scoring does not really help us keep on top of lameness, but daily assessment and early notification of problem cows will mean we can treat problems quickly, before they become more serious and costly,” he comments. “By recording every cow, every time they walk under the camera, the HerdVision system will give us the timely data we need.”

Mr Willcocks runs a herd of 300 cross bred Norwegian Red, Brown Swiss and Montbeliarde cows. The cows calve as an autumn block, calving from the end of July until the beginning of October to make full use of grazing.
A network of tracks means cows can graze most of the 300ha farm with the furthest field nearly a kilometre away. Being a free draining farm, cows are usually out by mid-February by day and out by night by mid-April. Most years the whole herd will be dried off.
In the winter the cows are TMR fed a diet of grass silage, wholecrop, fodder beet and a blend with dairy compound fed to yield in the parlour. They are housed as one milking group and serving starts on October 10th. The herd is averaging 7500 litres at 4.5% fat and 3.5% protein. Over 4000 litres are produced from forage.
Cows are routinely foot trimmed at 120 days in milk and at drying off. When visually mobility scoring, cows scoring 2 or 3 were held back and checked. Any cows suspected of being lame between scoring session would be held back after milking to be checked.

“It was my vet who first suggested we look at automating mobility scoring to help us maintain high standards of foot health. In addition, the HerdVision system would condition score cows far more effectively. We had previously just condition scored twice a year, but it was all rather subjective.”

Mr Willcocks says the immediacy of mobility data has made a big difference. Alerts are sent to his and the herdsman’s mobile phone and problem cows are drafted at the next milking. “We are picking up cows sooner, and as we expect cows to walk a long way to some of the grazing we need them sound on their feet. Treating problems sooner has reduced treatment costs and the cows’ routine in not disrupted, which was always a problem with visual assessment.”
Mr Willcocks says there are particular benefits from regular body condition scoring. He is looking to dry cows off at condition score 3.0-3.5 and to serve them at 2.5-3.0. Running a tight block means all cows are treated the same and he can get a good picture of herd condition at any time as an indicator of grazing availability.

“The farm is prone to drying out and even though we plate meter all grazing throughout the grazing the data provided gives us another way to monitor performance.

“When cows are dry we bring them through the parlour every week so we can check the teats and for footbathing and now we can monitor dry cow condition as well.

“The practical benefit of the system is that the cows are totally unaware of it, reducing stress and we get far more useful management information. The fact that it works off the same EID tag as the parlour feeders and the drafting gate is another practical benefit because the simpler and easier things are to do, the more likely they will be done.

(Published in Dairy Farmer)”

Jamie Burroughs, Suffolk

At Dairy Farm, near Beccles in Suffolk, the milking herd of 450 pedigree British Friesians is the main enterprise run on the all forage farm by Jamie Burroughs. In addition to the cows, the family run a free-range chicken flock and eight self-catering holiday lets.

The cows calve in a 16-week block starting in late August. They are averaging 7500 litres at 4.4% fat and 3.4% protein, with milk sold to Arla. The farm rears its own replacements and the herd will increase to 480 cows this autumn..

“We block calve to make best use of grass,” Mr Burroughs explains. “We rotationally graze from early March until October, housing cows as they calve down. In the winter we feed a TMR based on grass and maize silage. Concentrates are fed to yield through the 54-point rotary parlour with the cows milked twice a day.”

With the furthest fields a kilometre away from the buildings, they need cows that are good on their feet and as cow numbers increased they noticed an increase in the number of lame cows.
They were relying on manually spotting problem cows in the parlour, segregating them and treating them accordingly. They use a trained foot trimmer, and all cows are routinely trimmed at drying off.
As a condition of the milk contract, the whole herd is mobility scored four times a year. This was carried out by the vet as part of a herd health contract. Mr Burroughs comments that this inevitably caused some disruption at milking and slowed cow flow.

“While mobility scoring can be a valuable management tool, quarterly mobility scoring does not really help us keep on top of lameness. Moving to a system of automated daily assessment and early notification of problem cows means we can treat problems quickly, before they become more serious and costly."

“By recording every cow, every time they walk under the camera, the HerdVision system will give us the timely data we need. In addition the system body condition scores the cows daily which we were doing too infrequently.”

Mr Burroughs says the increased frequency of scoring the cows is helping to improve management. “Early identification means we have fewer lame cows as we are seeing problems sooner. As soon as we get an alert, we can segregate he cow and check her feet, treating her before the problem becomes more severe. We are managing foot health proactively rather than reactively."

“The condition score information is also proving a great help. We are looking to calve cows down at condition score 3.0 and the regular data gives us an overall picture of the herd. It allows us to see how condition is changing and manage supplementary feeding in late lactation to hit the target.

“We have saved treatment costs and improved accuracy of feeding and collecting the data is done in a way which does not affect cow behaviour of extend milking times.”

(Published in Cow Management)
Portrait of farmer Jamie Burroughs
Photograph of farmer Alistair Turnbull

Allastair Turnbull, Cumbria

Milking 350 Holsteins at Harrington Ling in Cumbria, Allastair Turnbull has been involved in the trial of the system, using it to mobility score cows for three years.

The cows calve all year round and average 9200 litres with milk sold to Arla. They are housed all year, milked twice a day and TMR fed with concentrates fed through out of parlour feeders.
Mr Turnbull is keen to keep cows sound on their feet. He has a regular monthly visit from a foot trimmer to trim cows are required and all cows are trimmed at drying off. All cows are footbathed 4-5 days a week.

“Before we started using the camera we were mobility scoring 3-4 times a year and our foot trimmer who is RoMS accredited used to do the assessment for us to ensure it was done consistently."

“There was a cost to this and some disruption to the cows,” he comments. “Then we had to analyse the data. Based on the results we would look at all cows scoring 2 as any score 3 cows would have already been seen."

“Between assessments we would hope to pick up score 2 cows but possibly not as quickly as we should. We haven’t been using the camera for condition scoring yet.”

The camera is fitted above the race and all cows will go under the camera twice a week while heifers are photographed daily, purely as a result of how the race is sited. Mr Turnbull believes that getting data alerts on cows twice a week has been sufficient to allow him to spot score 2 cows sooner.

“The system is certainly picking up cows sooner and the alerts mean we can get them, segregated and checked quicker, preventing problems escalating. It is quite possible some of these would have been missed. We are saving the time and cost of manual assessment as well."

“With any technology, you have to have faith in it and trust the results. Interestingly we recently got the foot-trimmer to score the cows and compared the results to the camera. They both identified exactly the same number of score 2 cows,” he comments.

(published in British Dairying)”