"Photo: William Scott and Kamilla Breinhild (left and centre) turned Steven Duncan’s (right) operation around by making the cows comfortable. The couple train and advises farmers Australia-wide about how better animal husbandry practice stops disease and improves cow comfort".
Few people have questioned why people are living longer lives, yet cows are dying younger. Until now. The statistics are confronting. The world’s productive average age of cows is falling and now hovers at just 2.5 lactations. It takes two lactations alone for cows to repay their rearing costs. The top 1% of global producers can average six lactations
per cow. Among these confronting stats are that 80% of the world’s cows have some kind of hoof lesion1. In the USA in New York State alone, 55% are listed as lame and mastitis also impacts on 33% of the world’s cows every year.
Sadly, most of the blame has been laid firmly at the feet of housing and or management in a hard and fast 2014. Because today, in a disposable world with low milk prices, cows are often no longer members of farming families teaching children valuable life lessons about respect and care. They are instead … disposable. Dutch-based company CowSignals, is changing that by ‘listening’ to the cows and making subtle shifts in operations in 55 countries — including Australia. It’s achieving big turnarounds in cow comfort and bottom lines.
One Dutch farmer on the CowSignals programme recently won an award for his exceptional cow care after having to treat only one quarter for mastitis in 12 months within his 110-cow herd…
A South-East Queensland farm has been one of the first Australian farms to find out what a difference CowSignals can make.
Graham and Christine Duncan, together with their son Steven and his wife Genevieve, milk 180 cows at Glenore Grove, an hour-and-a-half outside Brisbane. Their challenging humid sub-tropical environment, on top of pressures on the Queensland milk industry, staffing costs and unreliability, have pushed this family hard to make ends meet. They could have easily given up so many times.
But today they’re engrossed in getting this operation into the financial position they so desperately need. They put their balls to the wall, investing in three Lely Automatic Milk Milking Systems (AMS) 18 months ago, to upgrade their out-dated dairy. However, they found they were still fighting lameness, mastitis and the associated stress of the change when the 2013 floods hit them a month after installing the AMS.
Everything turns to…
Steve Duncan, 33, says, “I’m sitting here with 230 cows on the 20 acres [8.08] that was above the water line, and then 25 stranded dry cows decided to swim home. I had to swim out there and cut fences so they could make it. We have black soil here and they turned the paddock into a pig sty. We were battling to get our SCC under 300,000.
“We still had some animal health issues because the cows were living in a feed-shed with a concrete floor. They had sore feet, they were dirty and we hadn’t broken the mastitis chain. In this hot climate a rain event turns everything to shit, basically. It doesn’t matter how much you clean it. It’s always going to be muddy and shitty and very expensive to manage.
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This is the first of a series of three articles.