Precision dairy farming utilizes all aspects of the latest technology to monitor health, production, reproduction, rumen health and feed intake to maximize profitability. In the past, dairy producers measured all of these factors on a farm level or a herd level, but with precision dairy farming, we are now able to measure these for each individual cow so that each cow receives the care they need.
Since the early days of dairy farming, dairy producers have been responsible for cow record-keeping, but often they are not entering that data correctly. New technology is able to record the data, sometimes as often as every five seconds, and generate graphs and insights for dairy producers. This helps minimize data entry mistakes and user errors and reduces the amount of time dairy producers need to spend on record-keeping tasks.
Precision dairy farming technology is especially important on large dairy operations where there is less opportunity for producers to have a direct connection with each cow. Precision dairy farming can help keep an eye on each cow and let you know when they need additional attention.
Here are some of the key precision dairy farming technologies that are changing the way we gather data in the dairy industry:
One of the biggest, most recognizable advancements in the dairy industry is robotic milking. Robotic milking machines not only handle the whole milking process automatically, but also gather data to help dairy producers make important decisions for the handling and dairy cattle nutrition of each cow in their system. They measure milk production on a per-cow basis and can measure the grain concentrate each cow is ingesting so you can see the impact it has on their milk production.
Robotic milking machines also have automatic sorting functions so that if a cow is dry, they will be sorted out. If they are having cow hoof problems or any other health-related issues, you can program the machine to sort them out for treatment or to receive special dairy cattle nutrition requirements.
A rumination collar uses a microphone to measure a dairy cow’s rumination to help ensure a smooth transition period. Changes in rumination can be an early sign of calving diseases, negative impacts of recent ration changes, cow comfort, etc. Knowing normal rumination patterns for your specific dairy cow can help mitigate the effects of manageable stressors, such as heat stress. The data can be used to help dairy producers treat those cows and minimize any negative impacts.
A rumen bolus measures rumen temperature and pH levels to help identify any systemic infections that need to be treated. If a rumen bolus tells a dairy producer that a cow’s pH is dropping, it is a sign that a total mix ration (TMR) isn’t mixed thoroughly, sorting is taking place, or a ration change is having negative impacts. This can help a producer make appropriate changes to their dairy cattle nutrition program.
Parlor monitoring systems measure daily milk flow per cow, and there are some systems that can measure components like daily milk fat and daily milk protein and can even address milk quality by measuring somatic cells. If a cow’s milk production starts slowing down, the parlor monitoring system can send you an alert so you can get eyes on that specific cow and provide treatment or make necessary changes to its dairy cattle nutrition.
When precision dairy farming technology is implemented and understood, each dairy operator can create their own data to better manage their herd. This technology, however, can generate so much data from multiple sources that the amount of data can be overwhelming. It can be challenging to identify the right management changes for your herd.
Contact your nutritionist or veterinarian for advice and information about interpreting data and using it to make changes to your dairy production system.