By Chloe Mitchell, ASAS/ASAP communications intern
A paper in Animal Production Science has detailed a new automated weighing system that could be used to predict calving date.
Currently, manual recording of calf birth date data in an extensive beef operation is often very impractical. This study involved a trial placing 232 pregnant Wagyu cows in a paddock with a walk over weight (WOW) unit at the water yard entrance. The WOW unit consisted of a set of scales and an ear tag panel reader for electronic identification of individual animals.
The hypothesis was that calving date could be predicted from examining changes in cow body weight from the WOW system. A large amount of weight loss in a one to three day period was used as a calving indicator.
The weight profiles and confirmed DNA parentage data showed that the predicted calving date was correct for 59% of the cows in the trial. The authors recognise that this percentage could be increased with design changes to the WOW unit in order to slow cow movement and ensure a more reliable weight measurement.
Corresponding author Michael Aldridge says that this technology could prove very useful in extensive beef herds, making “a large impact to remote breeding programs by providing these otherwise unknown dates.” WOW data could be a factor in genetic selection to improve cattle reproductive performance, and Aldridge believes “walk over weigh and other automated remote technologies will become commonplace in our livestock industries.”