Tucked in the Southeast corner of Minnesota, outside of the quaint rural town of Altura, lies Pine-Vue Farms. Owners Sheldon Luehmann and his wife, Karli, purchased her parents’ herd of dairy cattle in October 2021. They didn’t have a herd monitoring system back then but they soon headed to World Dairy Expo. “That is where we learned about the smaXtec system and how many more things that this system could do for our herd than just improve the reproduction”, says Sheldon Luehmann.
Indeed, the measurement of inner body temperature is the heart of the smaXtec health system. Each cow’s temperature is measured 24/7 inside the reticulum with a relative accuracy of 0.018 °F. When her temperature deviates from normal, the Luehmanns or their employees receive a temperature alert.
Improved pregnancy rates
When evaluating the best system for their herd, the Luehmann’s number one issue was reproduction. “We breed the cows ourselves and we don’t have a herdsman, so before we began using smaXtec I would always be stressed out in whatever I was doing, knowing that I needed to get back to the barn to be watching for cows starting to be in heat,” Luehmann says. “Our pregnancy rates were low and not improving much month after month, which started to really stretch out the herd days in milk and we were still trying to get cows pregnant long after they peaked in milk production. We began being more and more aggressive with our offsync breeding, and while that was working and improving things, it also had its drawbacks.”
Pine-Vue Farms began using the smaXtec system in November 2022. Prior to using smaXtec, they were breeding about 85% off the offsync shots and 15% off natural observed heats. Since using smaXtec, they have switched to 85% off of natural heats and only 15% from offsync shots.
“Our pregnancy rates have improved dramatically, the herd’s days in milk average is improving, and we are having fewer cows getting injured in the barn. For the system to pick up exactly when a cow starts to come into her heat by monitoring her activity and rumination and giving us a timeline of when is the proper time to breed her, it has really taken the guess work out of it for us,” Luehmann says.
Detecting diseases before symptoms become visible
While the reproductive features are beneficial, the early disease detection and health alerts are particularly helpful for Luehmann. With the inner body temperature of each cow constantly being monitored, the Luehmanns can know when a cow is going to be sick or have mastitis about two or three days before they can visually see something is wrong in the barn or in the parlor.
Less antibiotics and dumped milk
“It has been much easier to deal with cows having a tough transition after freshening by getting ahead of the symptoms and being able to use more natural remedies for things instead of antibiotics, which results in dumping milk,” Luehmann says. He also points out that knowing how much water a cow drinks in a day helps Pine-Vue Farms determine if that slow transitioning cow needs to be drenched or not.
Healthy udders and less mastitis cases
“We pride ourselves on a low somatic cell counts (SCC), usually running around a 70,000 and with the smaXtec system it has actually helped us drop that down to consistently being 55,000 or lower,” Luehmann says. “When a cow throws a high temp alert, it is her body’s natural immune system trying to fight whatever it is.” The first milking after seeing a temp alert, Luehmann runs a CMT paddle test on that cow. Usually she has a quarter flaring up, which, when left alone, could easily turn into mastitis. “By knowing ahead of time that she has a flare up, we can quarter bucket that milk, udder mint that quarter, and give the cow some probiotics to help her body fight it more naturally,” Luehmann says. “Nine times out of 10, that flare up settles down before it turns into mastitis.”
Calving alerts facilitate optimal calving management
The calving alerts of the smaXtec system also have been exceptionally beneficial to Pine-Vue Farms and are proving to be extremely accurate. Being able to know about 15 hours before a cow is going to calve allows Luehmann to put that cow in the calving pen and keep a closer eye on her. “Almost every single time, just like clockwork, the cow will have her calf 10 to 12 hours after throwing that calving alert,” Luehmann says. “In the few short months of having the system, we have saved a few calves by knowing when that calf is supposed to be born and when we need to help that cow have the calf if she is taking too long past that 12-hour warning time.”
Improved quality of life for cows AND farmers
While Sheldon and Karli Luehmann have only been dairy farming for less than two years and are still learning themselves, they advise other producers interested in smaXtec to do their own research and talk to other farmers to see what is working for them. “The smaXtec system has really taken the guess work out of a lot of day-to-day decisions and actions on the farm. I am no longer always stressed or anxious, thinking that I need to get to the barn to watch and observe the cows for heats or health issues,” Luehmann says. “We were in Mexico on our honeymoon in January, keeping a close eye on the cows from the beach, sending messages back to the guys doing the work for us about which cows to breed and what time, and when a cow needed to be moved to the calving pen. The system has really improved our quality of life and we are able to relax a little bit knowing that we have a 24/7/365 observation of our cows.”