Read how good data and insights together with a strong focus on replacement stock are making an impact at Mackie’s.
Mackies is a large dairy farm business based in Aberdeenshire, famed for its ice-cream production. The modern dairy unit utilizes cutting edge technologies in the husbandry of the 300-cow herd. Replacement heifers are reared in a purpose-built calf unit.
Although they had excellent stockmanship, a lack of centralized record for treatment usage across the large unit meant it was hard to get a full picture of treatments given to calves and to understand the scale of any issues.
Under the WellCalf program, each calf was given a Smartbell tag to monitor temperature and activity and provide individual animal health status reports. Calf treatments were entered in the Smartbell Premium app giving instant insight into treatment numbers, with colour coding allowing easy understanding of the reasons for treatment. The data set also builds up a record of treatments over time comparing month-on-month figures and identifying disease trends, informing better heard health planning.
I was originally cynical about the use of the data, but now we look at the app 2 or 3 times a day. Our antibiotic usage has gone down and the calves turn around much quicker.
Autumn 2021 showed a dramatic increase in pneumonia treatments, highlighting the need for improvements in calf care protocols. This build-up of treatment was obvious in the easy to understand dashboard. The farm started a vaccination programme to improve disease prevention and adjusted management protocols; consequently disease levels reduced significantly. A further outbreak was quickly detected and calves treated as well as a deep clean of calf areas to reduce the underlying environmental pathogens.
We believe that the data generated and collected by farms should work to empower their decision making, improve animal health and improve profit margins.