Technology helps dairies use data to become profitable

Dairy farmers know more about dairy cows today than previous generations. For what? The adoption of technology on farms is one of the main reasons.

Most farmers use data from innovative technologies to understand the biology of their dairy herds to make better decisions and become more efficient.

“With the data, we learn that our cows change over time and improve their production, so farmers cannot use data from 10 years ago to make decisions today because we had different animals with different technologies and nutrition,” says Veridiana Daley, Purina Mills senior researcher on adult dairy cows.

According to a recent report by the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, the advancement of innovative technologies with dairy cow genetics and automated management systems on farms are the biggest contributors to reducing the industry’s carbon footprint. dairy, which is the equivalent of taking 4 million cars off the road.

The report also revealed that today’s dairy herd produces four times more than the world average, with 16 million fewer cows. Additionally, farmers’ adoption of the technology saved enough water to supply New York City for two years.

“Dairy farming can be complex. Farmers are under a lot of stress, time constraints and tight profit margins. The goal of using technology is to help farmers make better decisions, find bottlenecks in their operation, and be more profitable at the end of the day,” said Alex Tebbe, Dairy Technical Specialist at Purina.

The creation of a high quality dairy cow

Genomic testing and genetic selection for desirable traits such as milk production have helped farmers create more productive dairy cows.

Most dairies test heifers to see which ones will make genetically suitable replacements in their herd. The tests show the genetic potential of dairy production, says David Erf, senior dairy technical services veterinarian at Zoetis.

“When we genomically test calves, it can predict their future,” says Erf. “The goal is to find which animals will be the most profitable for dairies.”

Genetic testing and selection allow farmers to reduce the number of unprofitable cows.

“Testing allows us to genetically find more of these trouble-free cows that are good at production, good at breeding and healthy, because a cow that can excel in all three of those areas, she’s going to be a profitable cow for no any farm,” Erf said.

Farmers use their time and resources more efficiently

Today, the most widespread use of technology on dairy farms is a robotic milking system, which has revolutionized the milking parlour.

A robotic milking system can give dairy farmers more flexibility and allow them to focus on other tasks, such as crop work, because they are no longer tied to a cow, says Suzanne Meck, director of operations at ‘AMS Galaxy USA, a supplier of precision dairy farming equipment.

In a robotic milking system, a sensor detects which cows are present and automatically cleans the cows’ teats before and after attaching the milker. Additionally, the system will collect data from a cow’s collar – which looks a lot like a Fitbit device for humans – to track its milking time, pounds of milk produced and rumination.

“Cows can milk themselves 24 hours a day. So maybe you don’t have to worry about getting up at dawn the next morning to start chores,” says Meck.

In most cases, a robotic or automatic milking system can also mean that cows spend more time in the barn. According to Meck, this can make it difficult for farmers to enter barns to clean pens and provide fresh bedding.

However, there are automated cleaning systems such as a flushing system, scrapers and robotic manure collectors that drag through the barn and take the manure to a deposit area, Meck says.

“Automated equipment does a good job because it works around the clock,” she adds.

Most manure management systems also have water saving processes and water usage tracking features to help farmers make better decisions with water resources.

Farms are also adopting automated litter systems, which help reduce litter waste by producing low grades throughout the day. Plus, automated litter improves cow health and comfort, Meck says.

“This type of automation allows the farmer to lay down his cows three to four times a day, instead of once or twice a week in manual mode,” adds Meck. “Cows also like to have this fresh bedding frequently.”

Use data from technology to improve management decisions

Today, a cow can create over 2 billion data points in its lifetime. According to Daley, most dairy farms collect physical data points from various monitoring software or technologies that collect over a hundred types of information.

Farms at a more basic level with herds that only do dairy herd improvement (DHI) testing once a month are still collecting five to 10 data points from their cows per month, Tebbe adds.

However, measuring and comparing data to find bottlenecks on a farm can be difficult when there is no easy way to integrate data from different technologies on a farm. Tebbe says that’s where Addie, a dairy record analysis program from Purina, comes in. It collects data from all management software technologies used on the farm and creates a report with actionable insights that producers can use to increase economic potential.

“Farms that have adopted the technology may have four or six different software systems collecting all of their data. The way Purina built Addie, the system integrates data from these software systems, in an easy to understand form, allowing us to begin to understand the full picture of the farm,” says Tebbe.

“Addie is a tool or technology that is uniquely about cows,” Daley adds.

Using the data collected, farmers are looking for ways to be more efficient with their resources, such as creating more milk production with less feed or detecting diseases earlier in cows before they affect their well. -be.

“Farmers are curious individuals. They always want to know more and they ask good questions, so we can take their questions and transform their data to get the answers they need to succeed,” adds Tebbe.

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