Trevor Nutcher, a dairy science senior, implemented new technology at the Dairy Farm unit on campus to help increase cow pregnancy rates.
Nutcher’s adviser, Stan Henderson, gave Nutcher the idea for the project and got him in contact with Micro Dairy Logic — the developer of the technology Nutcher used for his project.
“Micro Dairy Logic was looking for a university to demonstrate this technology,” Henderson said. “When I heard this, I asked (Nutcher) to come in and ran the idea by him and it went on from there.”
Nutcher created a collar, one of the first models in the United States, that helps students and farmers tell when the cows are ready for artificial insemination.
“We put the collars on 130-something cows and we rotate them through the herd,” Nutcher said. “The collars measure activity, movement and chewing as well as other things like temperature. … All of these things help in determining when the cows are in heat.”
Traditionally, dairy farmers use a combination of different techniques to determine when the cows are in heat, Nutcher said. Measuring the temperatures of the cows and also marking the cows with chalk to see if another cow has mounted them — common when cows are in heat — determine when the best time to artificially inseminate the cow.
The collars are a more thorough way to do what traditional techniques currently do. They can log all types of activity, Nutcher said, so they will continue to be used at the Cal Poly dairy as an extension of Nutcher’s project.
Henderson said the multitude of information the collar brings in will be used in other students’ senior projects next year.
Although the technology is not widely used at this time, Nutcher said the collars can cause big improvements for dairy farmers because it is a good tool to make sure the cow is as healthy as it could be.
“Obviously, if you are very diligent about checking cows using traditional methods you’ll have great results, but with the collar we saw great improvement at the Cal Poly dairy,” Nutcher said. “With the influx of new students working the dairy every quarter, the collar is a more foolproof way to get good results.”
Henderson said the collars are suited for dairies the size of Cal Poly instead of larger dairy farms because the price of the collars can be hefty.
“In addition to traditional methods, it is a good extra system to take better care of the animal,” Henderson said. “(Nutcher) goes out every week to check on the collars and it is a great deal of hands on learning.”
Hands-on learning is what the senior project is all about, Henderson said.
“This project has been a good example of something that includes academics and applying that to what’s useful on a farm,” he said.
Anna Dean, an animal science freshman, said this senior project is the epitome of the “Learn By Doing” motto at Cal Poly.
“He took what he has learned in his classes here and used that to help better the school,” Dean said. “Also, by putting in as much work as he had to at the dairy, that really is ‘Learn By Doing.’”
Nutcher will present his senior project at the American Dairy Science Association meeting in New Orleans this summer at a professional association and undergraduate competition.