How Payne Ranch Optimised Operations with SenseHub® Dairy

Mike and Becca Payne: Payne Ranch

LocationFarm SizeHerd Size
Waiuku South Auckland 188ha (150ha Dairy and 38ha Beef) 400 Cows, 50 Beef

Payne Ranch Ltd is a thriving dairy operation owned and managed by Mike and Becca Payne. For the past two years, they have been using Dataflow II (MSD Animal Health’s desktop version of their monitoring solution), incorporating in-shed feeding and Bale ID to optimise their rotary shed operations.

Nestled in Maioro, South Auckland, the ranch spans 188 hectares, with 150 hectares dedicated to dairy farming and 38 hectares for beef. Mike and Becca, along with their four children and one worker, Mary Milligan, run a well-oiled machine, overseeing a full autumn calving herd with a 10-week mating period.

Becca is the fourth generation to work on this farm. Her great-grandfather purchased it in 1918, followed by her grandfather in 1953, and then her uncle in 1985. The farm left the family in 2010, but Mike and Becca bought it back in 2022. Over the years, the farm has evolved: it housed cows and sheep from 1918 to 1965, transitioned to sheep only from 1965 to 1975, and has been solely a dairy farm since 1975. Now on its fifth cowshed, the farm embodies a rich history and tradition.

As a team, Mike thrives on the diverse responsibilities of stock work, machinery, and pasture management, while Becca enjoys the flexibility to assist wherever needed, whether it’s on the farm or handling administrative tasks. Mary, their dedicated worker, brings a wealth of experience with dairy cows and goats, making her an invaluable asset to Payne Ranch. The Payne children—Lockie (10), Rhett (9), Aria (7), and Harris (5)—each contribute their unique interests and skills, from pest control and motorbikes to a love for animals and machinery.

Essential tools for animal management

When Mike and Becca decided to install a new monitoring system at Payne Ranch, they opted to channel their funds into a modern solution that could function as an additional labour unit in the shed. This was particularly crucial during mating season, which traditionally required three people in the shed. With the new system, they can efficiently manage with just one person, significantly reducing labour demands.

The primary goal for implementing the new monitoring system was to gain deeper insights into rumination patterns and use this knowledge to boost production, particularly through the feed pad. Mike and Becca were also keen to eliminate the need for bulls during mating and to enhance the overall health of their animals. They believed that by closely monitoring their herd, they could achieve these objectives more effectively.

Initially, Mike and Becca viewed the collars as an additional staff member—one that would continuously monitor the herd without the need for breaks or days off. Over time, their perspective has evolved to see the collars as essential tools for animal management. The collars have proven to be invaluable, simplifying the workload for staff and ensuring consistent, reliable monitoring of the herd’s health and behaviour.

When the decision was made to implement the new monitoring system, the overall sentiment among the Payne Ranch team was one of excitement, though there was some initial apprehension. The team was particularly apprehensive about the system’s accuracy in drafting cows in heat, especially since mating season had already begun when the collars were introduced. There was an initial perception that the cows were being drafted too late in their heat cycle. However, through the data and observations provided by the collars, the team learned that their previous method involved drafting slightly too early for optimal insemination. This new understanding led to improved timing and effectiveness in their breeding practices.

Multiple benefits

As the team at Payne Ranch continued to use the monitoring system, they uncovered several additional benefits. One significant advantage is the system’s ability to alert the team to cows whose rumination has dropped below their baseline over an extended period. This early detection capability is crucial, as it allows the team to identify potential health issues 2-3 days earlier than they could through visual observation alone. This timely intervention helps maintain the overall health of the herd and prevents minor issues from escalating into major problems.

Conversely, when necessary, they could also identify cows that needed to be culled sooner, thus saving money on prolonged care for unproductive animals.

The system also made the process of drafting dry mobs and springer mobs during calving time remarkably stress-free. The automation and accuracy of the collars ensured that these groups were managed efficiently, reducing the workload and stress for the team.

Technology for the future of farming

Mike and Becca attribute much of their success to the support of both sets of their parents, who have provided encouragement and assistance throughout their journey. Additionally, the MSD Animal Health SenseHub Dairy Monitoring team, particularly Kirstin Watts and Craig Midgley, has been invaluable. They have been instrumental in generating new customised reports and troubleshooting any glitches in the system, ensuring that the technology continues to meet the evolving needs of Payne Ranch.

The Paynes anticipate several key impacts from ongoing use and future advancements in this technology. One primary goal is to tighten their calving schedule over the coming years, improving the efficiency and productivity of their dairy operation. Additionally, they foresee potential for streamlining veterinary cost to increase efficiency, as the early detection of health issues and precise management of breeding cycles could reduce the need for certain veterinary interventions.

Looking ahead, Mike and Becca Payne are optimistic about the continued benefits that the monitoring technology will bring to Payne Ranch. SenseHub Dairy (formerly known as Allflex Collars) is the leading monitoring solution in New Zealand, with the highest number of collars deployed on cows. This widespread adoption suggests a robust foundation for integrating even more advanced technologies in the future.

“The system also made the process of drafting dry mobs and springer mobs during calving time remarkably stress-free. The automation and accuracy of the collars ensured that these groups were managed efficiently, reducing the workload and stress for the team”

rebecca payne

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Monitoring Solutions – Branding Explanation

The brand names for our monitoring solution have been subject to changes since recording our videos and farmer stories.

MSD Animal Health, a division of the MSD group of companies under Merck & Co., Inc., Rahway, NJ., U.S.A. and a global provider of animal health pharmaceuticals and technologies, purchased the Allflex New Zealand business in 2019 (including certain SCR-branded animal monitoring technologies). At the time, Allflex animal monitoring solutions were known as Allflex collars and the relevant desktop-based software was HeatTime Pro (both of which you may hear about in this video). The dairy monitoring solutions are now branded SenseHub® Dairy – MSD Animal Health’s desktop-based software is now known as Dataflow II™ and cloud-based monitoring software is known as a SenseHub® Dairy solution.