Going High-Tech Benefits Cows and Employees
By Karen Bohnert, published in Dairy Herd Magazine
Known for their legacy of efficiency and doing things right, Kutz Dairy was started by Ron and Pam Kutz in 1973. Beginning with some pigs and crop ground, Ron’s father gave him a heifer calf that year for Christmas, and the Jefferson, Wis., dairy has only grown ever since.
Ron was always good at including his boys, Allan and Aaron into the decision-making process, which further spurred their interest and helped the farm grow to where it is today. Milking 2,100 Jersey cows through the parlor, Kutz Dairy looks at everything they do to ensure it is generating value to the operation.
Focusing on cows and employees, the Kutzes goal is always to look for ways to become more efficient with just how they take care of their cattle.
“The end goal is obviously to do the best we can for our cows every day because they're what takes care of us, our families and the families of our employees. We always try to ask how we can make life better for not only for our cows, but for our employees too," Allan says.
Kutz believes that is where technology helps tremendously.
“Being able to utilize the data that is collected everywhere on the farm to better manage and to help the overall profitability of the farm is key. We look at technology as an investment to help reduce the overall cost and improve the efficiency of the dairy while doing what's best for the cows.”
Managing more with less while being consistent in the ways they look at things allows Kutz Dairy to provide excellent care for their cattle. Attracted to the efficiency of technology, the Kutzes were an early adopter to herd management software and invested in a BoviSync system. They were particularly enticed by its cloud-based software.
“We could have it on as many devices as we wanted, scan ear tags and enter data from every device. It was a big benefit for us,” Allan says. “One of the biggest things we like about it is it's driven by protocols.”
Kutz Dairy employees receive detailed chore lists from BoviSync based on protocols. As chores are completed by employees, management receives verification that chores are complete.
“There is no more assuming. You just know,” Allan says.
When employees change positions or move on, Kutz must train new employees. The technology helps them stay uniform with how they care for their cattle.
INTELLIGENT DAIRY ASSISTANT
Through a trial basis, Kutz began utilizing Ida Pro, short for Intelligent Dairy Assistant, a collar-based system, nearly two years ago. Last December, they decided to put the technology on all their cows.
“It's been a big part of integrating consistency, as well as improving cow health by identifying sick cows faster and becoming more efficient with how we care for our cows,” Allan says.
Kutz, who researched similar systems, as well as visited with other producers, chose Ida because of how the artificial intelligence is integrated into the system.
“I was blown away on how quickly the cow health accuracy improved once collars were deployed on the whole herd verses the trial period. Ida uses artificial intelligence on each animal to determine if that cow has a health issue or if she has a change in behavior”
Kutz says they don’t second guess the system anymore.
“If there's a list of cows that have a health alert and we give them a complete physical, we usually always find that something is indeed wrong with them,” he shares.
Kutz believes the health aspect of Ida is where it shines the best. Before implementing Ida, Kutz strictly relied on daily milk weights and deviation reports.
“It’s really hard to use a report based only on milk weights to identify sick cows,” he says.
Two cloud-based technologies that can talk and work together is a huge advantage from Kutz’s set of lenses.
“Ida is a system based off of artificial intelligence and in order for it to get better, it requires information put into it,” Allan says. “From us, the user and the cow data (from BoviSync), that's how it gets more intelligent.”
Instead of having to double enter data into two different systems. they enter data into BoviSync and BoviSync talks to Ida.
Labor is a big issue facing many dairies, and Kutz says it’s hard because there are fewer people who grew up around cows and have worked with them every day.
“It’s hard to find good animal people that can look at a cow and see that they’re not feeling quite right. This is hard to train into someone,” Allan says. “I think that's where technology really helps because it helps make that easier and more consistent.”
Kutz, along with his herd team, utilize the cloud-based systems on their mobile devices, as well as their nutritionist and veterinarian.
“Ida Enterprise has nice graphs and different KPI’s to look at to help you really dig into the data to see what’s going on,” he says.
Julie Larson, U.S. Regional Sales Director with Connecterra, says the producer can share Ida communications in English and with the tap of a button, switch to the language needed to communicate to non-English speaking employees.
Always looking for the next opportunity, Kutz says there is no clear-cut path to the future.
“We'll probably always continue to grow,” he says. “The question is will it be another barn or a whole new facility or something else. We don’t know. It depends on market conditions and other opportunities that present themselves as to what direction we’ll go.”
Kutz believes with the technologies that they have in place; the next steps of growth will be easier.
“If you have a good employee that wants to do a good job, give them the tools to help them succeed,” he says. “Anytime you can do more with less, increase your output, all while doing what’s right for the animal, it’s a win for everyone.”