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Costa View Farms Milks Savings From RFID
Thanks to handheld interrogators and in-ear tags, the 6,800-cow dairy can more quickly find and treat animals, update records and boost milk production.
Here's how it works: Software running on the handhelds is regularly synchronized with Valley Agriculture herd-management software running on desktop computers, which tracks each animal's shot schedule, veterinarian visits and pregnancies. When shots are given, an electronic list is compiled and downloaded to the handheld. As a worker passes the animals, the interrogator scans the ear tags; it takes about 1.5 seconds for the device to scan a tag and correlate it with the software. Once the reader discovers a tag that is on the electronic list, the handheld emits an audible beep and displays instructions.
In addition, during veterinarian visits, the system is used to determine if any cows are pregnant; in such a case, that information is entered into the handheld and correlated with the cow's unique ID number. Every evening, information from the handhelds is downloaded into desktop computers. Using the Valley Agriculture program, Pietrowski can run reports at any given time to determine which cows have been given shots, and which are pregnant.
The RFID system has replaced a manual, paper-based system requiring workers to visually search for numbers printed on ear tags. According to Pietrowski , it has been a huge timesaver. "When I used a paper list, it would take me about 45 minutes to walk one pen [containing about 280 animals]," he says. "Now, it takes us about 15 minutes to walk one pen. And everything is much more accurate. When you are looking at a long list of animals, your eyes play tricks on you, and chances are you are going to miss an animal that is due shots."
More important, Pietrowski adds, the RFID system is boosting productivity. "The reason we got this system was to save time," he explains, "and to get them through the process as quickly as possible so they can get out of the stanchions, get water and lie down so they can be more comfortable."
According to Pietrowski, more comfortable cows means more milk. "I would say within the year and a half, we recouped what we spent, which was probably about $15,000. That's because of our added milk product, because the cows are lying down a lot more, and on labor, because now workers can do other things."
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