Sort gate technology vital for precision herd management

Article Details

20 Jan, 2020

"Crossroads has NaviGate Premium, which is our top-level dairy management system”.

When you’re managing a herd of nearly 700 cows, technology becomes an important part of the equation.

Dairy management systems are vital in terms of sorting your cows at each milking time and providing data for an overall picture of how well the herd is performing.=

Milking automation technology can measure the production of each cow, check for health alerts, automatically operate teat spray and the cups off function, reducing the amount of labour you need in the parlour.

But what happens if your sort gate system and milking automation tech can’t communicate with each other?

That’s the situation Waikato dairy farmers Philip and Sharon Dench faced on their Crossroads Farm in Te Awamutu.

The couple redeveloped their dairy in 2017, moving from milking 690 cows in a 50-aside in-line system to a 54-bail Orbit Concrete Rotary parlour built by Waikato Milking Systems.

The new Orbit rotary was installed with milking automation options, SmartECRs, SmartD-TECT and BailGates.

Waikato Milking Systems’ unique Plug ‘n’ Play system allowed the farm owners to add Electronic Milk Meters later on, simply by plugging in and fitting the meters on to the parlour.

In 2019, changes to the farm’s sort gate software by its original manufacturer, meant it was no longer able to communicate with the milking automation technology onboard the Orbit rotary.

Philip reached out to Waikato Milking Systems to see what the options were.

Head of Sales Support and Technical Services Diego Brandao said finding a solution was simple.

It involved removing the incumbent sort gate system and replacing it with the company’s NaviGate Dairy Management System.

“We kept the physical gate but removed its control box and reader, and replaced it with NaviGate.

“There are different styles of sort gates. Some are a saloon style, which split open, some open up towards the cow flow.

“The advantage with NaviGate is that it allows you to change its settings to suit most common styles of gate hardware in the industry.”

At the gate, a NaviGate control box and ID reader were connected to manage, detect and identify each cow using the gate.

At the rotary, Navigate Rotary ID was also installed, to identify each cow and the bail it was being milked in.

“We also added SmartLink, so our Electronic Milk Meters and SmartD-TECT systems could communicate with our NaviGate Software.”

Data collected from the sort gate and rotary ID systems can now be sent to the parlour office and reviewed on a PC.

“We removed the old computer system in the office and installed our NaviGate Office Control.

“Everything is linked back to the office PC where the operator can review the milking information of each cow and set up predetermined sorting options for the gate, for example.”

Diego said two Operator Consoles, which display real time milking information, were installed in the parlour, one positioned at cups on and the other positioned at cups off.

This gives the operator the convenience of being able to access a console on either side of the bridge, whether they’re working at cups on or cups off.

“The consoles have a keyboard so the farmer can quickly enter commands, for example, to enter a treatment, or to automatically sort cows as they walk through the sort gate.

“The advantage is that the farmer doesn’t have to rush into the parlour office to set up the commands on the PC there.

“Navigate Premium includes a speaker system, which we installed around the Crossroads parlour.”

It will activate whenever treatments or actions needed as the cows enter the parlour.

Diego said the refit project took about two weeks to install and a further week for testing.

“The installation was completed to a great standard by Qubik,” he said.

The NaviGate Dairy Management System is available in three levels to suit every farmer’s unique dairy operation.

The options include NaviGate Access, NaviGate Advance and NaviGate Premium.

“Crossroads has NaviGate Premium, which is our top-level dairy management system,” Diego said.

“I think the key point in this project is that the farmer wanted a whole, connected system.

“He wanted animal ID, sort gate capability and a dairy management solution, that’s what he was looking for.

“We’ve been able to refit the incumbent sort gate system, with a new dairy management system.

“It’s really a good example others who may be in a similar situation to the Crossroads Farm, could consider if they want to upgrade to a connected dairy management system.”