Dutch Hokofarm Group provides ‘golden standard’ for data collection of individual cattle feed intake and animal behaviour.
RIC2Discover: because there is still a lot to discover
With RIC2Discover, the Marknesse-based Hokofarm Group has launched a successful successor to the globally known RIC system. The intelligent feeding troughs, in the distinctive blue colour, register and collect data on eating and drinking behaviour of individual dairy cows and beef cattle, providing valuable information for research centres, breeding organisations, feed companies and innovative livestock farms.
“Our RIC2Discover system is the golden standard in collecting data on the individual feeding behaviour of dairy and beef cattle,” says Arnold van Leeuwen, business unit manager at the Hokofarm Group. “The data generated by our system is highly valuable worldwide for research into food efficiency, emissions reduction and more. If we want to supply the world’s population with enough food and protein in 2050, the information provided by our distinctive blue feeding troughs is essential.”
Accurate to 0.01 kilograms
The RIC2Discover system, where RIC stands for Roughage Intake Control, consists of an open feeding trough with an electronic system linked to advanced management software. “The trough recognises a cow or bull when it approaches the feeding trough,” explains Van Leeuwen. “The moment the animal puts its head through the feed fence, it gets access to the feeding trough or not, and if it gets access, registration starts. The feeding time is then precisely recorded and the feed is weighed to the nearest 0.01 kg. This makes it clear exactly how much and for how long each individual animal takes in roughage. The system is extremely accurate.”
Research centres and universities have been using the system from the Dutch Hokofarm Group for years. Van Leeuwen: “From the beginning, we have worked together with WUR, the research centre of Wageningen University, and similar institutions in other countries also use our method. We are active in every country in Europe, the United States, Canada and New Zealand. Researchers from various Asian countries, also come to Marknesse to pick up our feeding troughs.”
For manufacturers and livestock farmers
Van Leeuwen sees the target group for RIC2Discover becoming ever broader. “Where the system was first used almost exclusively by research institutes, we are now seeing the troughs more and more often on selected farms. Genetics companies, feed manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies used to have to go to a research centre to collect data, but now they can go directly to the farmers to collect information. That gives faster results and moreover the data obtained are and remain their property.”
The livestock farmers who have the troughs installed also benefit from the RIC2Discover system. Van Leeuwen: “A dairy farmer gets a signal from the milking robot or milking parlour if a cow is under-producing or from the activity registration system if the animal moves less than usual. The RIC2Discover system alerts the farmer to abnormal behaviour even earlier. Health monitoring starts from the moment of food and water intake. It takes the cattle farmer little effort, but it yields huge benefits.”
In addition to the individual roughage intake, the water intake can be measured as well as the weight of each animal. “These are all options with which even more valuable information can be obtained,” says Van Leeuwen. “Exactly what is investigated is up to the user. A cow or a bull, for example, can take in unlimited feed, but it is also possible to set a time or quantity limit.”
Other systems from the Hokofarm Group can also be linked to RIC2Discover system because the company manages the total package. “We have eighty years of experience with milking parlours and forty years building automation systems. All that knowledge has gone into our RIC2Discover system. By combining the feeding troughs with, for example, our concentrate feed systems, milking parlours or milking robots, even more integrated data can be recorded.”
High convenience, low maintenance
The Hokofarm Group primarily puts the success of RIC2Discover down to the ease of deploying the system. The software is very user-friendly for both researchers and farmers and can also be linked to various digital devices. The troughs themselves also require little labour. Replenishment - by hand, or with a feed mixer or by automatic feeding system - is easy, and the troughs can be tipped at the push of a button. Van Leeuwen: “The troughs have a robust construction and are super-tested, so the annual maintenance costs are low. They can be installed in both existing and new barns and have a modular design. It is well worth the investment. In fifteen years, users will still be able to rely on a strong product, a user-friendly interface and, most importantly, accurate data.”
“RIC2Discover is a fantastic system, but we aren’t finished. We never are,” concludes Van Leeuwen. “We are constantly looking for ways to improve. We owe it to ourselves and to our clients. Because there is and remains a lot to discover.”