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Are these underutilized technologies on your farm?

Progressive Dairy Editor Walt Cooley Published on 31 October 2019

The past few years haven’t been a great time to talk about investing in new technology, but that shouldn’t mean technology takes a back seat. Many technologies dairies have already purchased go underutilized. 

Progressive Dairy reached out to several experts in the industry and asked the following question: What existing technologies do you feel go underutilized on most farms? How would you use their existing technologies to help them? What follows are their helpful responses that could suggest ways your dairy could use existing technology to improve – with little to no additional investment.

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RFID technology has so many uses and can be adapted to a variety of management styles. Efficiency, accuracy and decreased labour costs are the value here. Pen moves, inventories, shots, vaccinations, dry-offs and calvings are just a few of the key items that can be recorded quickly and easily using RFID. This is a simple tool to use, and the labour force can be quickly trained.

Once implemented, many users are quick to find new uses to further increase labour savings and efficiency. Users also tell me after implemented, they are eager to eliminate paper and a clipboard on as many tasks as possible to avoid the manual data entry at the desktop.

Ladd Muirbrook
Senior Account Executive
Amelicor

Genomic technology is really an underutilized tool for dairy farmers to maximize profitability. The genomic-testing industry has seen significant advancement in the past 10 years. Genomic technology was in its infancy in 2009. Cost to test an animal was coming down but, more importantly, we were learning how to use this technology to improve dairy management. Fast-forward to 2016 and the launch of genomic predictions for wellness traits, which have been validated in peer-reviewed research so we can now find not only the most productive cows but also the ones less susceptible to disease conditions. That information has far-reaching implications for dairy profitability that are unmatched today.

Richard Wallace, DVM
Senior Manager
Zoetis Dairy Technical Services

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A dairy farm’s most underutilized technology often is its feed management software. Feed inventories may be worth several millions of dollars. So even small improvements – for example, reducing ingredient shrink – can make a huge difference in the bottom line. One way to help manage those feed inventories is to use a platform or truck scale program, which may be an add-on to the farm’s existing software package. The scale program records every load coming onto the farm (such as feed ingredient deliveries) and going off the farm (such as milk shipments and cattle sold). It can catch errors where the dairy was charged for deliveries it never received or not paid for milk already shipped.

Nik Ver Steeg
Ruminant Field Technical Specialist
Diamond V

In general, most technologies available today are used in a limited way for treatment and reproductive records. Producers use most for daily tasks and management. It is not common to see forecasting, performance evaluations or trend analytics at most farms. Data overload is probably one of the reasons why technology goes underutilized. If I was consulting with a farm, I would first ask what are their goals and how are they utilizing their existing technology to drive results. Second, I would evaluate their current technologies to see if we can understand or find any bottlenecks on production and efficiency.

Fabian Bernal
Dairy Farm Advisory Manager
DeLaval North America

We do believe there is a lot to tell about making the most of what you already have. We believe, and have proven, that being more efficient obviously helps to keep your dairy in better shape, including having better economics, selecting the best animals, detecting illnesses earlier, reducing cost of medicines, minimizing waste milk and efficiently feeding cows.

Although a lot of farmers have technology resources, often that information can’t be put in clear enough form for farmers to make decisions. For example, we have quite a few tools and specialized reports to help farmers have a better and more efficient understanding of their situation. When presented by the right person, this helps producers to act faster and increase savings, improving their numbers while milk prices are low and, of course, when milk prices are not that bad. Reach out to the companies whose technology you have already invested in and see if they have tools you’re not aware of or can help present information in a way to help you make better decisions.

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Arturo Gallardo
General Manager
Madero Dairy Systems Inc.

I think the biggest opportunity still lies within more complete utilization of herd management software features. Many dairy farms don’t fully utilize the analytics capabilities within these software programs. Better use of data is a key source of competitive advantage for dairies. I also think many farms would benefit from using feed management software. With feed being the largest expense for dairies, this is a huge opportunity to better manage this cost centre. Additionally, many parlour systems have valuable milking process analytics features that are underutilized. Lastly, there are dozens of useful dairy-specific phone apps that could be employed on farms.

Jeffrey Bewley, Ph.D.
Dairy Housing and Analytics Specialist
Alltech

On robots specifically, I would say there is an abundance of individual cow data we do not utilize on a regular basis (everything from cow weights to individual data on each quarter milking time). Ideally, we could group cows or make cull decisions based on individual milking time to better utilize robot capacity. For example, many milking boxes are set as a default to allow up to 20 minutes of time per milking. Most cows should be done in about half of that, Jerseys and crossbreds even faster.

I encourage producers to look for long milking time outliers and either deprioritize them for fewer milkings per day or cull them outright. This allows more cows to go through the box each day and increases litres of milk shipped per box. We’re seeing dairy producers push beyond the manufacturers’ recommendations of cows per box and finding efficiencies that way. Some farms don’t realize this data is available, and others don’t know how to aggregate the data to put it to work for them. Working with a trusted adviser who understands the numbers could help them gain more value from this technology.

Nicole Colgren
Sales Manager
Cargill

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