Rea Farm in Skibbereen, Ireland, was purchased by Gearoid Murphy's grandfather in the early 1940s. Today Gearoid works the farm alongside his father Gerard. Until a few years ago they had 90 cows, and recently expanded to 160. All milking cows are on kept on the home farm, whilst dry stock is on a rental farm about three miles away.
Rea Farm relies on natural heats, only using ov-synch hormones at year's end when working with bulls. With this approach, accurate heat detection is vital to productivity.
With the goal of naturally expanding his herd in mind, Gearoid realised manual detection
was not an accurate enough method, especially after noticing how many cows would go into heat at night, when unobserved.
He decided to invest in an electronic monitoring solution to make heat detection easier,
less time consuming, and more accurate.
To properly contend with the farm's heat spotting challenges, Rea Farm began using the SCR Heatime HR System in November 2012. Gearoid chose the SCR system based on recommendations and on research
from several American trials.
The system's combination of activity and rumination monitoring was crucial. "You need the rumination working in-hand with the activity to accurately see what's going on," says Gearoid "By seeing the rumination and activity together you can be absolutely certain that the cow's in heat."
From the beginning, 120 cows were equipped with Heatime HR neck collar tags. The tags are read by the IR readers placed near the entrance to the milking shed, so that individual cow data is updated
in the system twice a day. The SCR Heatime terminal is located at the back of the milking parlor.
The SCR Heatime HR System is now an integral part of Rea Farm's daily routine. "Normally I look at it in the morning and evening and after each milking, checking the health and heat reports, checking if a cow is in heat and when the [AI] service is optimal," says Gearoid. This is a huge time saver for Gearoid, who prior to installing the system would manually check the cows in three half-hour stints throughout the day.
What was once a 1.5 to 2 hour daily job has been reduced to just 10-15 minutes. "We don't have to devote massive amounts of time to heat detection. The system catches the cows that go to dairy [go into heat] in the night. It takes out the guesswork."
The SCR Heatime HR System's heat detection accuracy is also allowing Gearoid more freedom. "It's very hard to get someone who's good at the job. I wouldn't trust too many people to do the heat detection As a result, the farm's calving interval is now down by nine days – from 392 to 383 days – enabling Rea Farm to grow its herd naturally. "All of our growth is internal natural growth, not purchases.
It would have been hard to expand from 90 to 160 without the Heatime System."