Rumination Data: What can it do for you?
By Tom Breunig
New technology to track rumination allows dairy producers and their management team to see abnormal deviations in dairy cow rumination patterns. This data can then be used to monitor a number of performance parameters including nutritional changes, health events, calving and estrus. Have conversations with your dairy’s advisors and management team about this technology and how it may fit on your farm.
1) Why track rumination?
Dairy producers, veterinarians and nutritionists have long relied on cud chewing – both the sights and sounds of rumination – as a key cow health monitor, and with good reason. Because cows ruminate 450-500 minutes per day, a drop in rumination time is a clear sign there’s something impacting rumen function or animal well being. Rumination monitoring can provide an early window for diagnosis. Sick cows don’t spend as much time ruminating as healthy cows.
2) What is the science behind rumination monitoring?
In the past, rumination was typically monitored through visual observation – either live or from video. However, visual observation is labor intensive, and typically only a few cows can be monitored simultaneously.
A research trial1 compared electronic rumination monitoring with visual rumination observation, finding electronic system results were highly correlated with visual observation. Monitoring rumination with an electronic system also provides a numerical value for each day’s rumen function, and compares it to the individual animal’s average.
3) How does rumination monitoring help manage cow health?
It offers an early window for diagnosis, since a drop in rumination time often precedes any drop in milk production, and often occurs before physical symptoms appear. Producers can monitor rumination time to anticipate potential concerns before visual signs arise.
According to research2 following cows from dryoff through 150 days in milk, rumination tends to decrease in the last two weeks before calving, drops suddenly at calving and then rapidly increases postpartum. Cows usually reach maximum daily rumination time about a week after calving, staying relatively stable for the remainder of the lactation. Any deviation from this “normal” trend can indicate a need to evaluate potential health issues.
One way to put this information to use is for early intervention and treatment during the transition period. For example:
• It can help identify cows with lower prepartum dry matter intake. Cows with lower rumination time before calving often have lower rumination time after calving – and suffer a greater disease frequency than cows with higher rumination time in late pregnancy.3
• Visible signs of ketosis may not appear until much later than the actual onset of the disease. By monitoring rumination, producers can intervene earlier than if just watching for physical signs of ketosis.4
• Rumen monitoring may also be helpful to assess a cow’s short-term response to regrouping strategies used in the transition period.5 This information can then be used to validate current practices, or to adjust future grouping actions.
4) How can rumination monitoring improve nutrition programs?
Changes in the ration and variations in feedstuffs also have an immediate impact on rumen health and cow performance. Rumination monitoring can identify how individual cows respond to the reformulation. This often goes unnoticed when overall herd performance remains the same or improves. Rumination data can help identify potential rumen health issues resulting from ration changes earlier.
5) How can rumination monitoring improve herd management?
Above all, rumination data offers another key tool to make informed, proactive management decisions. The monitoring reports can be used to:
• track individual cows
• monitor pens of cows
• identify problems or changes within cohort groups
This means producers can be more effective with their time and resources, and quickly improve health and reproductive protocols like never before. By watching data trends, they can rapidly determine appropriate interventions and the timing of these actions to the benefit of individual animals, and to the betterment of their whole herd. p
• Tom Breunig is the U.S. General Manager for SCR Dairy, based in Madison, Wis. Contact him at 608-237-3170, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.scrdairy.com.
1/ Schirmann K, et al, Technical Note: Validation of a system for monitoring rumination in dairy cows. J Dairy Sci 2009; 92(12)6052-6055.
2/ Adin, G, Solomon R , Nikbachat M, Zenou A, Yosef E, Brosh A, Shabtay A, Mabjeesh S J, Halachmi I, and Miron J. Effect of feeding cows in early lactation with diets differing in roughage-neutral detergent fiber content on intake behavior, rumination, and milk production. J. Dairy Sci. 2009;92:3364-3373.
3/ Soriani N, Trevisi E, Calamari L. Relationships between rumination time, metabolic conditions and health status in dairy cows during the transition period. J. Anim. Sci. published online June 28, 2012.
4/ Bar D. Daily rumination time and calving diseases, in Proceedings, XXVI World Buiatrics Congress, Santiago de Chile, Chile, 2010.
5/ Schirmann K, Chapinal N, Weary DM, Heuwieser W, and Von Keyserlingk MAG. Short-term effects of regrouping on behavior of prepartum dairy cows. J. Dairy Sci. 2011;94:2312-2319.