Video: Herd Navigator collects data, enables quick medical attention

On-farm diagnostic lab | Information helps producers with management decisions

WOODSTOCK, Ont. — Herd Navigator can help producers by automating the busy tasks of laboratory style tests.

It can asses the health of the herds by examining the milk of each cow.

“It’s a lab on the farm,” says Nancy Charlton, a veterinarian and herd management specialist for DeLaval.

“When the cows arrive to our robots, or DeLaval ALPRO parlours, they are automatically sampled and tested. Results come in a simple format into your computer, to tell you which cows need your attention today, tomorrow or the next day.”

Twenty-seven farms use Herd Navigator, which was launched by DeLaval Canada in 2012.

A blue box is installed on a wall inside the barn, and each milking robot or ALPRO parlour is fitted with a milk sampler. The blue box is the systems diagnostic lab and tests milk.

The parlours will have 12 samplers if it’s a double six or 32 samplers if it’s a double 16.

The Herd Navigator software identifies a cow when it comes in to be milked and decides if it will be tested based on the parameters that are set in the computer program.

The diagnostic lab can test milk samples for progesterone, ketosis, urea and an enzyme indicating udder health.

“A cow may come in and be tested for nothing, she may come in and be tested for two out of the four, three out of the four, or four out of the four. It depends on where she is in her lactation” Charlton said at DeLaval’s exhibit in the research barn at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock last summer.

She said finding cows in heat is one of the key issues facing producers, which they do using synchronization programs.

This method yields positive results when done properly, she added, but synchronizations programs have their limitations.

“From what I see with Herd Navigator, though, these cows can be tricky,” she said. “Sometimes they do show activity when they’re not in heat, and other times they are dead silent and quiet when they’re going through their ovulation period.”

Herd Navigator automatically detects if a cow is in heat because it tests for progesterone, which is an endogenous steroid hormone.

Charlton said the information that Herd Navigator creates is ideal for producers who want to collect as much information as possible when monitoring their herd so that they can make better decisions and improve the operation.

However, the Herd Navigator doesn’t have to be complicated.

“Most of us will present you with your reports: here’s the cows to go inseminate, here’s the cows that need ketosis treatment, here’s the cows for culturing and here’s a look at where we’re going with our protein and the milk urea nitrogen,” Charlton said.

The program’s price tag depends on the milking operation in which it will be integrated.

Return on investment largely comes from the changes that the program helped operators make in their barns.

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