Steve and Craig Case
Steve and Craig Case
    JANESVILLE, Wis. – Steve Case no longer worries about overlooking a sick cow. Even under-the-weather animals showing no symptoms are on his radar. Case said this is because he uses a real-time, internet-based heat detection system that monitors both estrus and rumination.
    “The system tracks exactly what every cow did in regards to rumination,” Steve said. “It’s amazing.”
    Located near Janesville, Pineview Dairy is run by Steve Case and his wife, Liz, and son, Craig. The Cases’ grandson, Tyler, also helps on the farm. The Cases milk 150 cows averaging 85 pounds of milk per cow and farm around 400 acres. Craig, Liz and Tyler do most of the milking on this family farm, while Steve handles all the breeding and cleaning as well as the feeding with help from Liz. Craig is in charge of herd management.
    The Cases began using a heat detection system – Heatime® Pro+ – 12 years ago and upgraded to the latest version of that system in July 2019.  
    “The new version is phenomenal over the older one,” Steve said. “It monitors rumination by tracking cud chewing for each cow which helps us stay on top of health issues. The old system did not do this.”
    All lactating and dry cows as well as breeding-age heifers are on the system, and each animal wears an RFID collar. Operating via radio-controlled frequencies, the wireless system monitors cattle continuously. Unlike the previous version which only read RFID tags as cows entered the parlor, the new version reads nonstop, providing updates every two hours.
    Buildings and distance do not block the system from doing its job, Steve said. It reads the Cases’ heifers located 1,000 feet from the radio frequency boxes which are installed in the freestall barn and outside the milking parlor.
    “It’s very accurate,” Steve said.  
    By monitoring the activity level of cud chewing, the system can expose animals that might need medical attention. Suspect cows are flagged immediately – oftentimes before symptoms appear which has alerted Steve and Craig to issues numerous times, allowing for proactive diagnosis.
    “It doesn’t miss a thing,” Steve said. “If a cow’s not healthy, you’re going to know.”
    An animal experiencing a big drop in rumination will show up as an alert and is then checked over by Steve or Craig. The alerts have helped the Cases catch things like DAs, pneumonia and ketosis in a timely fashion.
    “The health benefits of this system are enormous,” Steve said. “It definitely saves us money by catching sick cows I might not have otherwise caught or would not have noticed as quickly. We pick up on things sooner than normal by using it. Early on, I was always trying to beat the system. But not anymore; I trust it.”   
    The system is in constant communication, updating the user on cows to breed and cows with lowered rumination. With the ability to access data anywhere at any time, Craig uses the system app on his cell phone to view information and informs Steve of any alerts. A cow who has stopped chewing her cud for an abnormal period of time will trigger an alert. An alert indicates a cow is in distress. Steve will then go check on that particular cow or cows.
    “If a cow’s rumination drops off, she could have a fever or be coming into heat,” Steve said. “Nine out of 10 times though, it’s because a cow is calving, and this allows us to act quick. We’ve noticed rumination completely drops off 24 hours before calving.”
    Craig uses the mobile app every morning to check on pre-fresh cows and looks at the fresh-cow report often, keeping a close eye on cows that might be ketonic. If an animal’s health index drops, he will use ketone strips to test her for ketosis.
    “Fresh cows are the most important group of cows on the farm,” Craig said. “If you get fresh animals through the transition period, it’s smooth sailing after that. The system has been a big help in this area.”
    The Cases use a double ovsynch breeding program on their cows, incorporating a 70-day voluntary wait period. Steve said they have had a lot of success doing Double Ovsynch over the past year, achieving a conception rate of 33.9%. Cows that do not get pregnant after the first round of double ovsynch are then moved to a regular ovsynch program. In both situations, the Cases also rely on their heat detection system, using it in conjunction with their ovsynch programs.
    “It finds heat immediately,” Steve said. “I wouldn’t be without it. We rely on this system every day, and if the internet goes down, you feel lost. It was out for three days recently, and I didn’t know how we’d survive.”
    Steve and Craig closely monitor charts and graphs highlighting animal health and heat activity. Rumination averages can be viewed from different levels – whole herd to group to individual. The system provides an in-depth look at animals individually, allowing the user to closely track each cow’s rumination status. It also shows which cows are ready for breeding.
    “This state-of-the-art system is awesome and is a tool everyone should have on their dairy farm,” Steve said. “It’s like your hired hand, and any size herd can benefit from using it. I think it’s the best money a farmer could spend.”