Electronic piercing of the dairy herd

Press-centre / News,

Ear tags to replace necklaces at EkoNiva’s dairies.

Successful dairy farming and animal well-being require an efficient herd management system. EkoNiva’s dairies employ cutting-edge herd management software, DairyPlan and DairyComp 305, in order to maximise the efficiency of their working processes. The software systems receive information from RFID devices located inside ear tags or necklaces.

‘Ear tags have a number of advantages as compared to necklaces’, asserts Konstantin Kapiturov, Herd Management Software Specialist of EkoNiva-APK Holding. ‘The information from transponders located in the necklaces can be read only by the stationary gates at the milking parlour. All other information has to be taken down on paper and typed into the computer. Unlike necklaces, ear tags make it possible to work with the herd management software right in the barns. The herd manager just has to place the tag reader in front of the animal’s ear tag, and all the information on the cow or the calf will be displayed on the portable computer screen. The data from the portable computer is transferred to the central data base via USB on a daily basis.’

Each ear tag has a unique 15-digit code, which cannot be erased or reprogrammed.

‘Nevertheless, the necklace-type transponders store more information than ear tags’, says Konstantin Kapiturov. ‘It includes the data on the activity of the animal, which is very important. If the cow has been moving more than usual, we can suppose that it is in heat and it is time to breed it. In this case, we should send the breeder to inseminate this cow. Ear tags do not provide this type of information. However, they have a clear advantage in terms of data flow promptness: ear tags allow herd managers to receive the necessary information immediately, avoiding the mistakes, which can happen in case of manual introduction of data from the paper. Besides, ear tags are less expensive.’

Another advantage is that ear tags can be used only once: one tag for one animal, while necklaces can be reused, which might lead to data confusion; besides, they can simply get lost. We discussed the advantages and features of the new technology with Sergey Usikov, Chief Veterinarian of EkoNivaAgro-Vostochnoye:

'We scan fresh cows every day for two weeks after calving: from day 1 to day 14. The breeders scan their groups four times a week when they give hormone injections, perform preg checks or breed cows.’

Ear tags were first implemented by EkoNivaAgro at Kolybelka dairy in January 2015. In December, the new technology was already applied at Verkhny Ikorets dairy and a bit later — at Vysokoye and Bushovka dairies. Each of the dairies is equipped with three ear tag reader kits, which include Agrident readers, MobileBase DS5 devices and a mobile DairyComp 305 app. The equipment is shared by vets, breeders and herd managers.

‘We tag only heifers on the day of their birth. Bulls do not get ear tags', comments Natalia Nikolayeva, Cattle Record Keeper at Verkhny Ikorets dairy. ‘It is a sort of piercing: the calf’s ear has two sinews, the tag is installed right netween them. Like a big ear-ring, it is placed far from the edge of the ear. It is lighter than a necklace so it does not disturb the calf and it does not catch on different objects when the calf is moving. The tag is attached to the left ear since the stationary reader on the rotary is located to the left of the cow. A similar reader is installed in the sort gate through which cows pass after the milking.’

Konstantin Kapiturov shared that the decision on switching over to ear tags had not been made yet but in future, EkoNiva is considering a possibility of using ear tags at all dairies.