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Could Rumination Data Help to Predict Dairy Cows' Calving Time in the Future?

30 September 2014

One Australian expert is testing whether rumen monitoring can predict when a calf will arrive.

This requires rumination devices to be fitted to cows, explains Dr Cameron Clark, University of Sydney.

IMAGE NAME/DESCRIPTION
Cow wearing SCR Tag /Collar

He writes that, to evaluate if they can help with prediction of calving, we conducted a field study with two objectives

  • First, to determine the profiles of rumination duration and level of activity as determined by sensors between and within days around calving.
  • Second, to use these data to predict the day of calving for pasture-based dairy cows.

We fitted SCR HR LD Tags (Hi Tag, SCR Engineers Ltd., Netanya, Israel) on 27 cows 2 weeks before their “expected” calving date, writes Dr Clark. The cows were then located in a 40 x 90m paddock and offered ad-libitum oaten hay and 2kg grain-based concentrate/cow/day until calving.

The SCR tags captured hourly activity and rumination data for each cow and we then fitted these data into mathematical models to represent trends and averages.

Figure1. Mean (+/- SE) level of rumination (minutes/hour) (diamond) and activity (units/hour) (square) relative to the day of calving (day 0). 

The key result of this study was that rumination dureation decreased by 33 per cent over the day prior and the day of calving, with the decline in rumination duration starting the day pre-partum (see Figure 1).

It was also interesting to note that activity levels were maintained pre-partum but increased in the days post-partum (Figure 1), probably associated with the maternal instinct of searching for the calf. 

Overall, this preliminary study showed the potential to use rumination duration to predict the day of calving and the opportunity to use sensor data to monitor the animal health. 

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