LAVEEN, Ariz. - The Danzeisen Dairy in Laveen produces milk the old-fashioned way, using equipment from the 30s, 40s and 50s.They also bottle it like they used to generations ago.
But when it comes to taking care of their dairy cows, they've taken steps to go high-tech.
“Every one of these cows has a pedometer on them. That way we can monitor them 24-7 better than what we already do,” said Kevin Danzeisen, whose grandfather started the family dairy farm over 50 years ago.
Like Fitbit, the pedometer keeps track of every step the cow takes, then sends the information wirelessly to a computer.
“Every single cow pings that thing every 15 minutes. So, we got real-time data,” said Danzeisen.
The dairy has 1,000 cows wearing the pedometers around a hind leg. According to Danzeisen, each cow averages about 12,000 steps a day.
If there is a spike, the cow could be in heat and ready to breed. If she falls below her average, then something could be wrong.
“We're finding cows that might have a foot problem before they ever show a sign for it,” said Danzeisen. “We were watching this particular cow. We brought her in and looked at her foot. She was walking just fine but we noticed she had a little pebble in her foot. We took that pebble out and the next day she was walking regular again. Before this system, we wouldn’t know until she was walking with a limp and then we would find it.”
Normally, a cow will enter and exit through the same gate every day. If a cow needs to be separated from the herd to be checked, a scanner near the gate will recognize the particular cow’s pedometer and trigger a different gate to open. That diverts the cow to another separate and secure corral rather than out in the corral under the hot sun.
“Now we keep (the cow) in a nice cool shade -- a bunch of fans and misters so they're nice and neat. They've got fresh feed. They've got fresh water. They're just chilling out at nighttime ready for us to check them out,” said Danzeisen.
Danzeisen says the key to good milk is a happy cow. The pedometers help make it happen.
“We’re feeding for health, we’re never feeding for milk production. The one thing that is really important to understand about dairy cattle: We're trying to have a healthy cow because a healthy cow gives more milk," he said. "We don't feed and take care of the cow for milk production. Therefore, they're unhealthy. They won't give milk unless they are healthy. What we’re doing as dairy men is always find ways to keep the cows healthier and healthier."