Forget crime or romance novels, Heywood, Vic, farmer Katrina McRae likes to read the latest data about her cows when she goes to bed at night.
As one of the first farmers in Australia to use Tru-Test automated heat and health monitoring with active ear tags and active collars, Ms McRae is impressed with the information she's getting.
"I like to lay in bed at night and go over the data and check up on what's been going on and make sure everything is good and all the girls are happy," she says.
"I'll also sit up early in the morning on the laptop before milking, to get a better idea of what's going on, and to add my notes and update any info.
"I like to do that each day so we can stay on top of cow health; it's pretty important this time of year when we are AI'ing.
"So far, we are really happy with how the collars are preforming and also the data available and just how easy it all is to use."
The 227 Holstein cows on the farm are like family to Ms McRae and her partner Kerry Cowland, so much so that she regularly refers to them as "the girls".
The Tru-Test product is marketed in Australia by Genetics Australia.
READ MORE: Getting heat detection right
The collars were fitted to Ms McRae's cows around the start of April.
With two-year-old son William and daughter Sophie just entering high school, she wanted to improve time management while also getting a higher in-calf rate.
"One of the most important things to do is watch your cows, but we felt there had to be a better way of doing it and we wanted to cut down on the time we spend sitting in the paddock watching cows," she said.
"Putting collars on just made sense.
"It gave us more time to do other jobs around the farm because the system is taking care of what we used to spend hours and hours doing every day."
She's already seeing the returns on her investment.
"They are picking up heat that we probably wouldn't see and they're also picking up cows that aren't cycling, which is something we might not pick up till later and it could be too late," Ms McRae said.
She said she wanted to eliminate drug use and go with a natural cycling system.
She has used Cue-Mate to bring them on and in a group of 17, there were 15 that cycled on their own.
Other cows that don't cycle go into fixed-time AI.
"We want as many cows as possible cycling in the first few weeks and to get them in calf as early as possible on their natural heat," she said.
"We're not inducing heat or pumping them full of drugs to get them all coming on at the same time.
"We're doing it when they're ready, and we hope that will give us a higher in-calf rate."
Tru-Test automated heat and health monitoring was selected because it could be integrated with the farm's Easy Dairy data system.
Ms McRae is also upgrading the draft gate to an Easy Dairy system so it can connect with the collars.
The addition of collars was a smooth process.
"They walk out of the crush with the collar on, swing their head a bit and then they didn't even worry about it," she said.
"We have a few cows that tend to be naughty and have lost collars but we pick that up and drive to the paddock and find it."
Ms McRae praised the Genetics Australia team for assisting with the introduction and teaching her how to make the system work.
She is looking to long-term benefits for herself and the "girls".
"Everyone is looking for different things but in-the-end, we all want to get our cows in-calf and for our cows to be happy," she said.
"We're investing in something that's going to make our job easier. Every day we're looking for a way to work smarter and hopefully it will make the girls happier.
"You've got have happy cows to run a dairy farm. If we look after the girls, they will look after us ten-fold."
The couple took over the farm from Ms McRae's father Andrew three years ago.
"The grass is growing and the cows are happy and we're seeing the results of that in the vat," she said.
"I'm proud of how far we've come."
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