LIC Protrack Farm Automation Systems

September 2012

Systems that work with electronic identification for better dairy herd management

Protrack is LIC’s range of farm automation solutions, available in three different versions, to suit rotary or herringbone farm dairies and with field data entry options.

There are three versions – Protrack Drafter, Protrack Vector and Protrack Vantage. All three work on a Rotary, only Vantage doesn’t work on a herringbone.

The systems provide automated livestock drafting and more advanced versions also link with cow/herd information in a farmer’s MINDA records like mating, condition score and animal health. Protrack enables cows to be separated into cohorts and treatment groups as they exit the milking platform.

The Protrack automated drafting system is now available for herringbone dairies, at an affordable price for small to medium-sized herds. It is called the Protrack Drafter version, which has recently been redeveloped and released with a Protrack App for hand-held devices, to enable the farmer to enter details of cows in the field for future drafting and special treatments.

All Protrack monitor units in the farm dairy have touch-sensitive LED screens with water-resistance, and a hand-held remote control unit can also operate the 3-way drafting gate, which has an animal EID reader attached for automated drafting.

Farmers often refer to Protrack as ‘an extra pair of hands’ – which doesn’t get sick, sleep in, have hang-overs — it’s always there, always working, always delivering to promise.

Protrack Vantage is an automated drafting system for rotary platforms, combined with a three-way drafting unit at the cow exit. As a cow steps onto the rotary platform, Protrack detects her electronic identification tag, which begins the separation options.

Information about each cow is displayed automatically in real-time. Milking staff can glance at the Protrack monitor to know which cow they are dealing with, rather than having to look at its eartag. Protrack will also provide an audio message to match the on-screen message, saving time and removing the need to continuously view the screen. For example, the decision to milk a cow that is currently within an antibiotic withholding period could potentially cost thousands of dollars in downgraded milk. Protrack enables the operator to know when she steps onto the milking platform if her milk needs to be withheld. Protrack allows a choice of the information that can be viewed on the monitor about any of the cows in any bail for example, the somatic cell count from her last herd test, recent reproductive history, or the groups in MINDA she belongs to. Protrack also provides alerts as a cow steps onto the platform, like high SCC, kicker, or non-cycler.

Other examples of the ways in which Protrack Vantage is used in the rotary farm dairy:

• Farmers have the ability to create calving mobs based on expected calving date, which puts an end to farmers having to bring the entire herd in to check. With Vantage, they simply enter the calving dates, and the system drafts off cows due to calve in the same time period.

• When a cow calves, the calving is entered against her number in the system – this automatically triggers a number of actions which, previously, the farmer would have had to initiate.

• Four days after calving, an alert comes up which tells the farmer that cow can now leave the colostrum mob, and join the herd.

• A metri-check (uterine health check) can be scheduled, and an alert (on screen) or the animal is drafted out.

• Animals can be moved into a colostrum management mob on MINDA

• All animal health treatments are recorded in Protrack and transferred to MINDA with the click of a button.

• Withhold periods (i.e. when milk cannot go into the vat due to the animal being treated with antibiotics) are automatically assigned and if a withhold cow enters the shed the farmer will receive an audio alert and an alert on the Protrack screen – avoiding the farmer being penalised for putting milk from a treated cow into the vat.

• The farmer will be alerted over speakers and on the Protrack screen if a Dry Cow (still in treatment) enters the shed.

Recently redeveloped and re-launched, the Protrack Drafter entry-level unit is suitable for a herringbone shed where, in contrast with rotary sheds where one animal leaves the bail at a time, a row of animals all leave the milking area at once. It is normally an almost impossible job to draft out one animal from a line, but Protrack Drafter makes it simple – avoiding frustration.

The new Protrack Drafter system and Protrack app enables farmers to create drafts on their iPhone, iPod touch or iPad as they find calved cows on the farm away from the shed.

As the farmer finds calved cows, a draft for returning Colostrum cows to the vat can be created, and entrance back into the milking herd after four days can be scheduled.

Cows found with health events can be drafted simply and quickly from the touch screen or the mobile app, thus ensuring problems are treated quickly.

Protrack comes with an automated three-way drafting system. It provides intelligent drafting solutions to make drafting easy and accurate. Drafting can be carried out either via pre-selected criteria in MINDA or reactively in the shed with the use of a touch screen. Gate changes are activated by an EID reader which responds when the cow’s EID tag approaches. The gate can also be operated by the milker with a hand-held remote.

With the Vector and Vantage models, MINDA has the power to instruct Protrack to draft cows out using certain criteria. For example:

• Draft all high somatic cell count cows to the right

• Draft all two-year-olds for drying off

• Create feeding groups of cows for different pastures

• Draft all colostrum cows

• Milk once-a-day and twice-a-day cows together, but draft them into separate herds after the milking.

• Draft all lower production cows for disposal as budget cows

• Set PW criteria in MINDApro to draft cows to be culled

Perhaps a cow is lame of perhaps certain cows have to be treated while the vet is on-farm. Protrack also has the power to draft cows out at request during the milking. No need for a mouse or keyboard – simply touch the Protrack screen.