If you have an Apple phone or iPad, there's a whole host of apps developed by the University of Wisconsin's Dairyland Initiative to help you assess everything from freestall sizing to the size of the fresh pens you need to body conditioning scoring.
All the apps are available on iTunes. By the end of the year, the apps will also be available for your Android devices, says Nigel Cook, head of Food Animal Production for the University of Wisconsin's School of Veterinary Medicine.
These apps can help you improve cow comfort, bring your facility up to standard and offer proof to your lender when he or she should lend you money to make necessary changes. Here's a snapshot of each:
The tool allows you to assess your current freestall dimensions, and gives recommended dimensions for cows ranging in weight from 1,000 to 2,000 lb. As you use the app, photos pop up to demonstrate where measurements should be taken.
"All the recommended dimensions are built into the app for both head-to-head and single-row stalls," says Cook. "The app allows you to troubleshoot stall designs to improve cow comfort and to encourage better stall use.
"When the app is initiated, the user is presented with a picture of a typical freestall and dimension text fields. You can select divider type, freestall alignment, cow size, and bedding type. You will see a picture demonstrating how to measure the stall dimensions by touching the letter label near the arrow," says Cook.
If a stall dimension is outside the recommended range, the letter label for than dimension turns yellow as a caution f lag. If the dimension is within the recommended range, the letter label turns green.
PreFresh Pen Size Calculator
"The prefresh or close-up pen is the only pen in a dairy herd where the cow decides when she leaves. She alone determines the time of calving," says Cook. "This creates a potential bottleneck on the farm and results in overstocking at this critical time unless we over-build the area to alleviate stocking pressure during a calving surge."
This is one pen that needs to be over-built to ensure there are enough stalls and bunk space available. Those slugs can occur, for example, if heat stress the previous year delays breeding and a large number of cows and heifers then conceive in a short window of time.
The app will predict required group size based on herd size, calving seasonality, age distribution by lactation number and targeted days of stay in the prefresh pen.
Body Condition Scorer
New this winter, the Body Condition Scorer app allows users to use their phones or devices to body score cows over eight locations. Drawings embedded in the app allow users to precisely gauge body condition every quarter point on 5-point scale.
Once the drawing is matched, the user simply clicks to capture it. Graphs can then be created by parity or freshening date to see if animals are on target.