Italian researchers evaluated whether the use of a remote calving alarm, in conjunction with timely assistance and newborn calf care, on a dairy farm could improve herd profitability. Working with an Italian dairy that averaged 110 deliveries per year, the researchers evaluated 680 deliveries over a 7-year period. Both primiparous and multiparous cows were included. Monitored cows received an intravaginal device which, when expelled from the vagina at the onset of stage 2 labor, sent a calving alert by text message and phone call to a preselected mobile. Control cows received care according to the dairy’s protocols.
In monitored cows, dairy staff responded to the calving alert, on average, within 21 minutes of receiving it. Cows were assessed, and assistance provided if needed. Calves received colostrum within 2 hours of birth. For control cows, since the dairy did not have a night shift, cows did not always receive timely assistance and the time from birth to colostrum delivery varied. Therefore, calf death loss was used for comparison instead of dystocia rates. Calf death loss was 11.1% in primiparous and 10.7% in multiparous control cows. In comparison, monitored primiparous cows had 0 calves lost, and monitored multiparous cows had a calf death loss of just 1.7%.
Researchers also examined the risk of early culling, milk production and days to conception between control and monitored cows. Researchers used a partial budget analysis to compare several simulations. The results showed a return of $42.55 to $103.50 per cow per year when calving alarms were used for all cows in a herd. The benefit comes from reduced calf death loss, reduced risk of early culling, fewer days open and increased milk production in multiparous cows. However, researchers cautioned that the calving alarm can only provide such benefits when used in conjunction with a trained staff that can provide a timely response and appropriate care for the cow and calf.