Less stress and more working years: how Ida helped one Wisconsin farmer

June 29, 2022
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When Mark Mitchell started using Ida, he was sure that it would be beneficial to the cows and the dairy. However, he didn’t anticipate that he would have less work stress and be able to retire a few years later than expected because his workload had decreased so significantly.

The herdsman of Trim-Bel Valley Dairy, a 600-cow farm in Wisconsin owned by Jim, Lanette and Justin Harsdorf, Mark started working there in 2014 when the family increased their herd size. At the time, the team was using a labor-intensive monitoring system, but they weren’t happy with it.

Farm Overview

Name

Mark Mitchell

Position

Herd Manager

Farm

Trim-Bel Valley Dairy

Place

Spring Valley, Wisconsin

Dairy Cows

600

Hired Ida

2020

Key Results

29%

Increase in pregnancy rate

16

Reduced number of days open

67%

Less TAI

21%

Culling decrease

30%

Reduction in mortality

A few years later Mark was looking for a new system to increase productivity and cut costs. He researched various herd management systems, but it was a serendipitous catch-up at World Dairy Expo with Julie Larson, the US Sales Director for Connecterra, developers of Ida, that led Mark to this intelligent dairy assistant.

He had known Julie for years and learned more about Ida, and her capabilities. “I was very intrigued about Ida and how she could help decrease our fertility treatment usage on the farm and detect cows on heat,” says Mark. “I trusted Julie, and I could see her vision for further success on our farm.”

Mark and the Harsdorfs were sold on Ida’s technology, functionality, customer care and the return on investment she would bring, and in 2020, they hired her.

Less stress, more time

Since then, 62-year-old Mark has had less stress thanks to Ida’s 24/7 assistance and insights monitoring. He now has more knowledge about his cows’ health and fertility, increasing his confidence that all the sick cows are being identified and treated.

Physically, work is much easier with Ida. There is less walking pens and manually checking so many cows. Mark, who suffered a leg injury in a farm accident more than 40 years ago, still experiences some strain when walking a lot.

However, working with Ida means it’s less physically draining for him, and he can be even more productive with her help. “I can’t imagine not having Ida,” says Mark. “My work-life balance has improved, and I’m able to spend more time entering data and thinking of improvements for the dairy herd.”

Ida tracks six cow behaviors such as eating, ruminating, and lying from sensors on the cows’ necks. For cows in heat, Ida alerts the farm by providing a list of cows to breed and asks questions so that she can continue to learn and provide personalized insights to the farm. Ida also provides transparency across the farm so multiple users have real-time updates.

Their AI breeder is happy with the system and breeds from Ida’s insemination list, which includes the service sire. For farms that have daily milk weights, Ida also integrates those along with the cow’s behavior, health, production and reproduction, and the weather, feed and herd composition.

Improved cow health

Ida helps to identify when there is something wrong with a cow based on her behavior. “Ida is quicker than us to pick up on health issues, and we are able to treat cows before they get very sick,” says Mark. “If there is something wrong, I’m alerted to it via the app, and I can respond quickly – checking in on the cows and deciding on the next course of action.

"We are now able to treat cows better than before. The results are less stress on the cow, a reduction in antibiotic usage and a large savings in costs, especially on fertility treatment.”

Better breeding and no more guesswork

Ida alerts farms when cows are on heat or non-cycling, and whether there are suspected abortions. Now the cows are bred more accurately on their natural heat cycles, which leads to greater breeding efficiencies and an increased pregnancy rate. Trim-Bel is no longer using OvSynch on the milking cows. Their summer pregnancy rate jumped from 19% in 2020 to 25% in 2021 and by fall 2021, the dairy’s pregnancy rate had climbed to 29%.

“There is no more guesswork from our side when it comes to breeding,” says Mark. “Ida’s heat detection accuracy is really good, which shows in our numbers.”

Smart dairy assistant

“With Ida, it’s like having a 24/7 team member,” says Mark. “This team member also gets better with time as her artificial intelligence keeps adapting as she gets more familiar with the cows based on our feedback and their behavior. I really enjoy farming with her. She keeps getting better and never gets old.”