Precision dairy farming - the farmer's dilemma: What to do with all the data?
An ever increasing amount of data available and solutions on sale have dairy farmers facing the tough question of where to start. With the multitude of methods for measuring your farm and herd’s activity, it’s not an easy task knowing where to start for any farmer going down the road of precision dairy farming. But there are a few obvious areas where measurement has become very accurate and the cost of implementation is low compared to the benefits received.
Start with milk recording and feeding
Recording the amount of milk each of their cows is giving daily is almost a must. There is a lot of software available from all suppliers in this area. “If you know how much milk each cow is delivering you can adjust their feed based on those results,” says Charlotte Hallén Sandgren, Dairy Development Director at DeLaval.
“In small to mid-sized herds where you can have individual feeding treatment, this can result in significant savings. In short, automated milk recording pays for itself.”
Add automated feeding to the list and there are very large time and money savings for the farm. By personalising the ratio of feed you can improve the yield, increase the earnings and cut down on feed costs when needed. If you tie in automatic feeding with automatic milk yield measurements, you’re off to a very good start.
Profitability of a farm is always tightly connected to the lactation interval of the herd. Breeding cows at the appropriate moment can have significant economic benefits for a farm. The question here then is to calculate the cost of the heat detection software and it´s accuracy versus the cost savings of the farm. There are quite a few different technologies out there so it’s important to choose the right one.
Mastitis is a disease that negatively affects the animal and negatively affects the farm’s profitability. As a result, detecting mastitis early has obvious benefits from an animal welfare, environmental sustainability and profitability perspective.
There are various cell counters on the market that can monitor the somatic cell count and give farmers a daily update so that they can react in time.
DeLaval, for example, is today offering an online cell counter that works in tandem with it’s robotic milking system DeLaval VMS™ measures somatic cell count of every cow during every milking session.
After that, there is a large list of possible technologies and their benefits will depend on a farm's situation. “Lameness is interesting for farmers,” says Charlotte Hallén Sandgren “but it’s not always easy to get them to buy a system for detecting it since not every cow reacts the same way to lameness so there’s more work to do there.“
In the coming years, we are likely to see additional technologies and improved versions of current technologies so precision dairy farming will undoubtedly become a larger part of every farm’s working practices. One of the opportunities is to actually more intelligently combine the data already collected by our systems and create integrated systems predicting the cows that need to be taken care of.
This is the second article of our series on precision dairy farming. Make sure to read the final article, "Precision dairy farming: What the future brings"