Automated parlor monitoring helps California dairy lower its somatic cell count
After only one-month of using automated video analytics for his milking parlor, California dairyman Cornell Kasbergen knew the new monitoring technology he was using would pay dividends.
“I’ve seen better adherence to our protocols since we started using the Cattle Care system. I believe that every dairy farm can benefit by using this system. If a dairy thinks their milkers are doing a good job all the time, this will prove them wrong.”
Kasbergen’s dairy in Tulare, California, has been using new technology from Cattle Care to surveil milking shifts and highlight when actions deviate from the dairy’s prescribed protocols.
How it works
San Francisco-based video monitoring company Cattle Care taps into a dairy’s existing security camera, captures video from a milking shift and uploads it for processing on the company’s secure servers. The company’s video analytics algorithms can spot deviations from what a producer would expect to see in a milking parlor operating at 100 percent efficiency. For example, the company’s service can spot when a milker manually removes a milking unit too soon, doesn’t post-dip a cow or is on their phone during a milking shift. These deviations are captured as short video clips and made available for a producer to view and share in their own online dashboard.
How it’s used
Kasbergen says the clips are helpful for training and reminding employees about protocols. On his dairies, when actions get flagged and appear in one of the clips, the employees become “movie stars.” He uses the clips during monthly trainings to teach employees and improve performance.
“The employees don’t like to be movie stars,” he jokes.
Before trying the system, Kasbergen was dubious if it would be worth using. He assumed that his employees followed protocols as they had been instructed. The program quickly showed otherwise.
“It’s a great teaching and training tool, milkers stay in bounds with procedures now. If they get out of bounds, Cattle Care finds them. If you don’t show them every once in a while, that you’re watching, they will drift.”
Using machine vision, Cattle Care can spot when a milker manually removes a milking unit too soon, doesn’t post-dip a cow or is on their phone during a milking shift. The technology can identify and report 20+ common issues dairy owners and managers would want to know about if occurring in their own parallel or rotary milking parlor.
What it returns on investment
Since starting with Cattle Care, the system has helped reduce the somatic cell count at the two farms where the system has been installed.
“When you’re chasing somatic cell issues, if the milkers aren’t doing their job, it makes the job of trying to figure out where issues are coming from that much harder,” Kasbergen says.
In addition to monitoring for protocol deviation, Cattle Care can also monitor for aggressive behavior towards cows, giving dairies some peace of mind that if an animal care issue were going on in the parlor the system would find it. In total, it can identify 20 potential issues in a parallel parlor like Kasbergen’s. Plus, if cameras are available in the holding pen or bulk tank room, monitoring activities are also available for those areas.
The system doesn’t just have to look for errors either. A dairy can have it tally the number of positive events it spots during a shift – such as good wiping, stripping, pre-dipping, post-dipping and cow handling. The service is offered for a monthly subscription fee. Often, a dairy with existing parlor security cameras has no additional set up or equipment installation costs.
“It covers a lot of bases,” Kasbergen says.
Each time he questions if he really needs it, he sees something in one of the clips the system generates that makes him glad the system caught the issue and alerted him to it.
“I believe that it’s a valuable tool that will return many times the subscription cost,” Kasbergen says.
Cattle Care is currently monitoring dairies and parlors milking more than 75,000 cows in the U.S. For a free demo of what Cattle Care can find on a single day in your parlor video, contact (559) 380-2550 or visit www.mp.cattle-care.com.