Whitehouse Farm Peter Wood - Farmer

Organic dairy farm in UK, Derbyshire, 170 cows

Peter Wood is a second-generation dairy farmer who is milking 170 Montbéliarde cows at Whitehouse Farm in Shottle, Derbyshire and installed a smaXtec system in August 2021. The farm is a family business that’s been all organic for more than 20 years and is run by Peter, his wife Cath and his son Adam, who is taking on the ropes more and more now. They try to produce as much milk off of forage, which is why they’re keeping the cows out on grazing as much as possible.

At present, they’re milking about 4400 to 4500 kilograms of milk in their milking parlor which also features auto-ID and auto-feeding. The parlour’s heat detection, however, wasn’t performing as required, so they needed a better solution: “We were looking into the different types and smaXtec came up. And we thought: This will be the optimal one to use. Up to now, smaXtec surpassed all what we expected”, the farmer reports. “It’s just unbelievable! It's a big improvement already and I wonder where we will end up in 12 months down from where we are now!”


“Core temperature is the key to welfare of any cow”

Having looked at various types of health monitoring systems, smaXtec’s unique and precise measurement of inner body temperature soon convinced Peter Wood: “If you got the body temperature, you know, the cow runs on that. If she is not right on that temperature, we’ve got to pull the cow one way or the other.”

In this way, smaXtec helped with detecting mastitis at Whitehouse Farm: “We are picking the heat rise on the cows, then we go on to investigation by California Mastitis Testing, picking up which quarters are high cells, and so we are treating to help her to get over it. By doing this, we are finding that the health of the cows has improved and that we don’t get clinical cases of mastitis now. When cows are ill, we are on the ball sooner. The cow monitoring is very good, the alerts are there and hands-on, looking for high cells on those quarters.”, he says. “Any other cows that are having a decrease in rumination or water intake, we use the alerts to find out what is going on and then hopefully put the cow on the right track again sooner.

Improved water intake and lower cell count thanks to smaXtec’s high-precision monitoring

After 2 to 3 months looking at the graphs, Peter and his family were amazed to learn how you soon smaXtec enables them to pick up problems and respond to graph readings: “At first, we didn’t realize how accurate the smaXtec alerts were. They are second to none, really.”, the dairy farmer explains and was soon able to make improvements on his farm: “We are getting these alerts, saying that the water intake had dropped, so we put another seven troughs around in the various fields which quickly helped reduce that problem. There again, smaXtec alerted us to problems that were there and has improved our management.

By making cow health data accessible anytime from anywhere, smaXtec is giving Peter Wood and his veterinarian a better overview of how his cows are doing: “The vet loves it. The fact is that with smaXtec, you can get a picture of what has happened in the last 7 days with this cow on water intake, rumination fill, temperature rising or decreasing, etc. So, he is very pleased about that, because it does help him and us to solve a problem quicker.

This has also brought cost savings: “The veterinary costs have dropped so far, but we are finding we are using the vet a bit more, because we are getting more alerts that smaXtec is bringing to our attention. As a result, cell counts have improved significantly since using smaXtec. Overall, the three-month average is 78’000 where we used to be always around about 100’000 – 150’000.”


“It made my life a lot easier”

“We find that the heat detection from smaXtec is second to none. When we see cows in heat now, we don’t run across the yard to try and pick out the number. We just pick the phone up and look at it. smaXtec picks up all the cows in heat and gives us the ideal time for insemination. I think we are getting rewards from that.”, says the organic dairy farmer. “Our conception rates have lifted because of this reason. The calving index is running at 377 which has improved by 18 days since we have started it. So, putting it into real terms money: smaXtec has paid for itself already, just on the calving index.” After 40 years of observing his cows to detect oestrus visually, Peter is glad he no longer has to spend hours watching cows and look for cows at nighttime: “smaXtec is as good as a man walking around the parlour all the time and all among the cows. It’s very good.”

The reliability and unrivalled accuracy in heat detection also allowed them to take a different approach to insemination: “We are using sexed semen now on the cow we want to breed from. We cover them once with sexed semen and then we carry on with the beef semen. We would not have dreamed of doing that before smaXtec, because of financial cost.”

“With smaXtec, we are finding a vast improvement for calving”

Having smaXtec’s continuous health monitoring and precise calving detection has had a big impact on how Peter and his family manage calvings at Whitehouse Farm: “smaXtec alerts us roughly 24 hours before she calves. So, we know if we need to bring her in or when to monitor her closely. If the graph in the curve diagram goes up higher, then we know when she is going to calve.”, Peter describes. “And there’s a bonus, because we can see when there is a temperature decrease, so we are picking up milk fever early so we can just put a bolus in. As for calving, smaXtec has taken a lot of time off.”

This has also allowed them to simplify work routines in winter: “In the wintertime, the cows are in the calving box with cameras on and smaXtec just alerts us when we need to keep an eye on them. This means that we can leave cows in the cubicles or in the dry cow group longer.”

On the ball with better cow health and fertility

“I think, the future of farming is going to be more efficient.”, Peter Wood summarizes. “With the rising costs of everything, I think you cannot turn your back on technology like smaXtec to help you improve efficiency on the farm. With the system, we were able to improve milk production, the calving index and cell counts are lower, too. Surely, all these things have got to make our margins better at the end of the day.”, he says. “To us, having the smaXtec system in the cows and on the farm is equivalent to having an extra person helping out and walking around the cows 24/7. And if you put that into the cost of an annual salary for someone, I’m sure it has got to pay for itself. Without a shadow of a doubt, it made my life a lot easier.

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