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The start of a new year is always a good time to ask, “What do I want to do better in 2023?”
With so many innovations and technological advancements in dairy farming introduced during the last 20-plus years, it can be difficult to decide on which technology to invest in, and prioritization sometimes feels like a trade-off. Things like financial health, cost management, human resources, machinery, animal welfare, environmental impact, feeding, reproduction, health and the list goes on – are all areas where producers can focus on improving. Even farmers who have achieved a high level of optimization may find new areas to explore to continue being successful in the future.
With this in mind, here are a few tips that may help you make better decisions in 2023 by optimizing your farm’s data and focusing investments in the areas that will deliver the highest value according to your farm’s goals.
Keep it simple and consistent
Simplicity is the key for success. As an example, simplify data access and the entry of new data when working with cows. New phone apps do help with this, especially those that synchronize with herd management software. Avoid manual notes that duplicate the work or invite errors when entering the data in the computer. Today’s technology eliminates the need for paper record-keeping and makes it easier to capture data consistently and in a more organized way. Think about how managing your data could help simplify your routines.
Use the data you already have
Do your due diligence before you invest in new technologies that might not add significant extra value if they are not well integrated with your farm management system. As an example, conventional and robotic milking systems are capable of collecting useful data from milk meters, RFID tags, automatic body condition scoring (BCS) cameras, activity meters, among other sensors. When adding new sensors or wearables, be sure this new sensor integrates with those systems, as it will add more value to the overall picture. The right software models will be able to utilize the integrated information to find sick cows, heats or to help interpret animal behavior with much better accuracy and ease compared with having isolated data.
Sustainability and productivity are complementary
Sustainability without productivity is not sustainable. Increasing productivity without caring for the environment, animal welfare, food safety or social and economic impact also has no future. There are technologies that can enable you to obtain better data to help improve feeding efficiency, milking practices, reproduction performance, use of hormones and treatments, and work quality. Whenever you are thinking of incorporating a new technology on your farm, think about how that new data will help you achieve long-term success.
Optimize labor with data automation
Recruiting, optimizing and retaining labor is not a new challenge, but for many farms there is still space to improve and find ways that new technologies can help. Automated data capturing or executing actions are good ways to improve labor efficiency and quality of work. As examples, phone apps, robots, automatic sort gates, BCS cameras, heat detection tools and animal localization systems all capture data automatically that is presented in an easy-to-use way. Optimize labor by making the work at the farm easier and more enjoyable.
Engage in consumer transparency
Educating and staying close to our consumers is the best way for them to become advocates and believers in what we do. Data will give you facts. With facts, you can counter disinformation and create confidence that the milk is extracted from cows that are healthy and treated in a humane manner. They also want to consume products coming from an operation that thinks about the impact on the en
vironment. Let’s think about how the different players in the dairy community can collaborate to put the right data together for consumers to love dairy farming as much as we do.
Every farm is different, and there is no one recipe that fits them all. I hope the above tips help you follow through with your New Year’s resolution to achieve your farm strategies and goals. Managing the right data at the right time and in the right form allows you to make the best decisions for long-term success.