The award-winning New Zealand farmer who got his highest-ever in-calf rate with Ida

March 23, 2022
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It’s a good thing Ida has freed up two hours a day for farmer Chris Poole and his veterinarian wife Emma Dangen. The New Zealand couple has just had a baby boy named Beau. And, with 720 cows and about 1 000 calves on their 200ha dairy farm, Cloverlea, in Pirongia South Waikato, the extra time they now have is much valued.

The farming business "Cloverlea" was started by Chris’s mum and dad 35 years ago, and he and Emma went into partnership with them in 2018. They’re a winning duo, literally. Chris was crowned the Waikato Bay of Plenty 2022 FMG Young Farmer of the Year and will be competing in the grand finals in July this year. Emma was placed third in the Young Farmer of the Year competition nationally in 2019.

Farm Overview

Name

Chris Poole

Position

Farm Co-Owner

Farm

Cloverlea

Place

Pirongia South Waikato, New Zealand

Dairy Cows

720

Land

200 hectares

Hired Ida

2019

Key Results

77%

Six-week in-calving rate (normally 65-74%)

2 hours

Extra time each workday to focus on other areas of the farm

Improved heat detection

Chris started using Ida in 2019 after looking for some kind of technology that would help improve his farm efficiency and give him more time to focus on other areas of his business.

His best results came in 2021, when Chris achieved a 77% six-week in-calving rate with his autumn mob, which is normally around 65-74% after six weeks of mating through those winter months. “Ida’s heat detection capabilities are excellent and have proven better than methods such as tail painting or watching the herds continuously and closely,” says Chris.

“Initially, while I was open to new technology and a solution, I was concerned that Ida wouldn’t integrate well with my herd management software, nor provide a big jump in our in-calf rates. However, it was a pleasant surprise that Ida did both, and it was also so easy to use”. Chris is now working towards further gains in six-week calf rates from both autumn and spring matings.

Ask Ida

Chris regularly uses the Ask Ida feature. When he makes any changes to his cow’s routine, such as a diet adjustment on the feed pad or in the paddock, he asks Ida to measure the effects on these changes on the cows’ behaviour. She will then indicate by percentage the increase or decrease that specific change has had on the amount of time ruminating, eating, walking, laying and standing.

This gives a great insight into the effects of management changes on the mob, which allows for better decisions to be made in future. “I once used Ask Ida after increasing the straw in the cows’ diet when the pasture was very watery with the spring flush. Ida then told me that there was an increase in rumination, which was just the result I was after. It was great confirmation and reassurance that I had made the right decision.”

Healthier cows

Ida has also helped Chris pick up when there are any health issues with his cows, and he’s been able to act swifter with cows that need a bit of extra attention. Ida will identify when a cow has early signs of mastitis, lameness, ketosis or milk fever, and even a young heifer cutting her teeth and not feeling up to eating her normal daily intake.

Ida will find and tell his drafting gate to sort cows that are showing signs of not keeping up with the herd. By sorting these struggling cows from the rest of the herd early on, fewer antibiotics and treatments have been needed, and cows have recovered quicker and been able to re-enter the herd more promptly than before Ida. Chris is now working towards removing up to 15% of antibiotic use by finding health issues sooner.

As a vet, Emma understands Ida’s value in supporting a faster diagnosis and treatment for sick cows. She uses the app directly at Cloverlea; however, Emma sees Ida’s ability to share data as a gamechanger for all farmers and vets.

Chris explains, “Usually when there is a problem, a vet must rely on a farmer’s sight and memory to work backward for a solution.” Of course, farmers aren’t in the paddock 24/7 watching the mob. “Ida makes it easy for a farmer to share the individual cow’s behaviour, giving the vet insight into the duration and potential severity of the issue."

Always improving

Chris is also impressed that Ida uses artificial intelligence and is always learning. “This continuous learning means that the data and insights are getting better as Ida gets to learn each cow individually. While Ida gets smarter, changes and new features are being added to the product and platform, so we’re likely to see better and better results with time.”

As an Ida fan with a strong conviction of – and many proof points - in her capabilities, Chris has gone from happy customer to happy customer who works part-time for Connecterra. With extra time on his hands, he grabbed the chance to work as a customer success manager when the company opened its New Zealand location. Chris is teaming up with Ida to support Kiwi farmers on their journey with the technology.