Automation is currently a trending and hot topic across the dairy industry, especially the use of activity monitoring systems. With several equipment manufacturers creating the initial spark of interest in these systems, more and more dairy producers are beginning to explore options in employing this technology on their farms. What’s the next step to help smooth the transition and implementation of activity monitors on a larger scale in the U.S.? Although not a new concept, this year marked a noticeable change in how activity systems are marketed in the industry.

A current trend shows manufacturers and A.I. companies teaming up to help producers maximize their investment in activity monitors by “bundling” the purchase of a system with the reproductive expertise of an A.I. company.

A common response given regarding the formation of these marketing agreements is that the partnerships create a “win-win” situation for all parties involved. However, the reasons behind the agreements tend to differ slightly from one partnership to another.

Going beyond current needs
Providing producers with not only new technology now, but the technology of the future was a goal for SCR Engineers when it first ventured into researching activity monitoring systems more than a decade ago.

Since then, the Israel-based company developed a system that employs three-dimensional accelerometers to monitor a cow’s activity in order to detect heat. Additionally, the newest system has the capacity to monitor the animal’s rumination activity.


When marketing arrangements were initially discussed for the U.S., SCR reached an agreement to partner up with Semex and Texas-based company, Micro Dairy Logic , to market this system throughout the country.

Chris Sheahan, ai24 Program Manager for Semex, explains that a relationship between Semex and SCR Engineers had already been established years before a marketing agreement for the activity monitoring system was reached.

Sheahan explains that Semex gravitated toward SCR in this partnership due to having worked with SCR in the past and seeing the cutting-edge technologies the company produced. The partnership that was formed helped build the brand and establish synergies between the two companies, Sheahan says.

As one of SCR’s marketing partners, Sheahan explains that Semex holds a key sales role in marketing the activity system. As the manufacturer, SCR builds the activity systems and provides technical support.

In addition to helping in a sales capacity, Sheahan explains that the partnership allows for Semex representatives to also provide technical support as well as on-farm assistance with the system, providing guidance to producers regarding reproductive strategies for their herds.

“There is great symmetry between the two companies,” Sheahan says. “SCR is very advanced and goes beyond the current needs of the producer.”

The HR-Tag is the system component that tracks an animal’s activity for heat detection purposes. The same tag also monitors the animal’s rumination activity.

“Three years ago, no one knew very much about rumination monitoring – and now it is changing the scope on how dairies are managed,” Sheahan says.

Establishing a new market
In 2008, the Select Sires team was tasked by the company’s board of directors to find an alternative to using reproductive hormones in breeding programs, says Lyle Kruse, vice president of U.S. Market Development for Select Sires.

Kruse explains that the company’s team members, including Ray Nebel, the company’s vice president of technical service programs, ventured out to find a solution. “We narrowed it down to standalone systems and at that time there were only a handful,” Kruse says.

He explains that Select Sires approached Dairymaster , an Ireland-based milking equipment manufacturer, about marketing their activity system in the U.S. “At that time, their system had not been released in the U.S., so the timing was very good,” he says.

Select Sires reached a marketing agreement in which the system would be marketed in the U.S. as the Select Detect activity monitoring system. A key goal of Select Sires in marketing the product was that there would be no unused systems two years after installation, Kruse adds.

“We would often find some of these activity-type systems sitting in a box in a milk house because no one really helped the producer figure out how to make the system work well for him,” Kruse says.

Through the company’s Select Reproductive Solutions program, approximately 50 highly trained reproductive specialists across the country work alongside producers in helping maximize the creation of pregnancies on dairies using the activity system.

“The bottom line is: If you’re selling semen and the producer doesn’t place much value on semen because it’s not making pregnancies, that affects our business,” Kruse says. “I think it has been a great fit having A.I. personnel that are very adept at managing a reproductive system to help figure out how to maximize this investment.”

Leveraging strengths
One of the two marketing partnerships announced this year was between GEA Farm Technologies and Accelerated Genetics .

“We developed a multi-channel partnership,” Steve Pretz, national sales manager at GEA says. “We are leveraging our strengths with theirs.”

Pretz explains that the two companies began working together in early 2012 to form this partnership to market GEA’s newest activity monitoring system, the Cow Scout S, which was officially launched in early April.

“The true strength and center of our business at GEA is mechanical service, milking systems, refrigeration systems and emergency service and repair,” Pretz says. “We needed a partner whose primary interest is getting cows pregnant in the most economical and effective way.”

According to the agreement, as the reproductive support for the Cow Scout S system, Accelerated Genetics representatives will provide producers the on-hand support to manage, interpret and use the data generated from the system to make improvements to their breeding programs.

“It’s very important for us to have an organization like Accelerated Genetics, whose business relies on getting cows pregnant, which is where the Cow Scout system comes in,” Pretz says.

Two main positive aspects to the relationship between the two companies, Pretz points out, are that the partnership will increase the sale of products as well as the potential to expand both companies’ market reach by bringing in new customers.

“The alliance between these two companies will also place reproductive experts at the hand of the producer and offer assistance with other reproductive concerns the producer’s herd may be experiencing,” Pretz says.

Handling activity system demand
In early June, DeLaval and Genex Cooperative, Inc. signed a joint marketing agreement. In this agreement, both companies will work together to market the DeLaval Activity System so that producers can also utilize reproductive management support from Genex specialists.

Although DeLaval developed its first activity system in the mid-1990s, Mats Stellnert, DeLaval marketing manager for herd management and capital goods, explains that establishing a marketing partnership was a matter of waiting for the right opportunity. “For DeLaval, it was not about finding a partner – it was very important to find the right partner,” Stellnert says.

According to this agreement, DeLaval will continue to sell and install the systems, as well as take care of any hardware maintenance needs. Genex will contribute their company’s expertise in interpreting the data from the system to maximize producers’ reproduction programs.

Stellnert explains that the increased interest and demand for activity systems warranted a need for additional technical and reproductive management support to help producers incorporate the data from the systems into their breeding programs.

“We found that when our systems haven’t been successful, most of the time the systems are usually working fine – it’s just how the data is interpreted and developed into the producer’s breeding program,” Stellnert says. “That’s where working with Genex is going to be great.”

He explains that Genex has a long-term strategy in making breeding programs more efficient, which is key to helping activity systems continue to succeed.

“At the end of the day, if you have a more efficient reproduction program, it will save the customers money, which makes them happy customers,” Stellnert says. “We will be happy, Genex will be happy and the dairyman will be happy.” PD