In Indiana, Alex Neuenschwander farms around 1,100 cows with his brother Kip. As a true entrepreneur he was one of the first users of Ida. How did the technology step up profitability of his farm? Alex shares some of the most remarkable results.
– Heat detection rate up by 20%
– Voluntary Waiting Period: from 60 to 80 days
– Pregnancy rate up by 6%
– Labor savings
When entering the premises of Neu-Hope in Bluffton, Indiana, the new shiny barn is the first thing that stands out. The large barn was completed in November 2019 and made it possible for Alex and Kip to expand their cow herd from 500 in October 2019 to almost 1,100 cows today. With the increase in herd size, more Ida sensors arrived on the farm to make sure the additional cows were connected to the Ida platform.
Name: Alex Neuenschwander
Farm: Neu-Hope Dairy
Place: Bluffton, Indiana, USA
Dairy cows: 1,100
Land: 2,500 acres (1,000 hectares) of soybeans, corn and alfalfa
Start with Ida: Q1 2018
Ida as part of decision-making
“We started with Ida almost two years ago when our dairy processor Danone was keen to try this technology in the field and see the results with some of their farmers. And we were one of the lucky ones to get the chance to start using this innovative technology on our dairy cows. We said yes right away”, explains Alex. Ida is a digital assistant for dairy farmers and is based on a neck collar sensor, cloud computing and machine learning. Ida gives the farmer accurate and actionable insights on fertility, health and operational issues in a user-friendly mobile app. Although Alex was new to this technology and frankly didn’t have outrageous expectations, Ida was quickly part of his daily decision making and hence resulted in big improvements in cow performance and farm profitability.
Higher pregnancy rate
“The heat detection capabilities of Ida is running really well”, says Alex. This is why he decided to quit tail painting, a common method on US dairy farms to mark cows in heat. Alex continues: “By using Ida, catching cows in heat is much faster and accurate now. Our current heat detection rate is now over 60% now as a result of that, compared to 40% in 2018. This increased the pregnancy rate, hence increasing the profitability of our farm. We also catch the repeats or non-cycling cows a lot sooner. Sometimes these include cows that I find too young to breed, then I simply let Ida know in the app. Ida learns from the feedback I give, which means that insights are getting better each time. It is real savvy system!”
“Also the veterinarian and feed advisor utilize the information, such as rumination time, we pull out of Ida”
At Neu-Hope, Ida also made it possible for Alex to prolong the voluntarily waiting period in the fresh cows. “I wait at least until they are 80 days in milk, instead of the 60 days that we used before as a standard. When I give them a little bit more time after calving, the cows recover better and have less chance to develop mastitis. At a production of 28,370 pounds per cow per year (around 40kg per day) our goal was to increase the percentage of milk solid components. With Ida we have the luxury now to wait a little bit longer before I start the insemination process”, Alex explains.
A future proof farm
Alex is also positive about the health insights Ida gives. “Especially digestive problems are spotted quickly by Ida, as a result of a sudden drop in rumination time for example. I can take swift action and keep the cows health and welfare status as high as possible. And this is key, also in the future”, according to Alex. US farmers still have many tools in their tool belt, including sync protocols and certain antibiotics. Some of these are going to leave or decrease and more focus will be put on animal welfare and soil health, just to name a few. Alex: “We are facing the same challenges as many dairy farmers outside the US. This is why we built our new 5-star facility for the cows and we believe that Ida is adding value to our overall management and helping us to make our farm future proof”.
“Using Ida increased our heat detection rate by 20% and I catch cows earlier with ketosis and metabolic issues”
Next to Alex, also the herd manager and his assistant are using Ida actively on a daily basis. The insights are also used for conversations with the feed advisor and Alex makes a summary each month for the feed advisor with the rumination times and other relevant data. “We notice that our farm staff is really enthusiastic about Ida because they get accurate information. Also, the veterinarian and feed advisor very much like the information we pull out of Ida. And working with good information improves the output and fun factor of the work. Alex addresses that the new barn is also contributing to the overall increase in farm performance he experienced over the last months. With the large new shed, the cows are more centralized, which means a better overall overview on the herd. “I still like to see the cows and walk the pens every day, but with Ida, life is so much easier. When you open the Ida app in the morning, you know right away what the status of the herd is, and which tasks require priority. We budget really tight and we want to hit our numbers.”
A silent barn: happy cows
Data is going to be a continuous focus for us to become even better and further improve our farm. But the results we get already since we introduced Ida on our farm speak for themselves”, Alex concludes. Walking through the new cow facility, one other thing is quite remarkable, besides its impressive size is the extreme silence in the barn. Considering that it houses 900 cows in one spot and the fact that you can hardly hear anything, it means that cows are ruminating, lying or resting in their free stalls, a sign of good animal welfare and healthy animals.