Extra value to capture in technology

By Dairy News

Dairy farmers use technology on farm to assist with everyday tasks and don’t necessarily make the most of the data it collects.

That’s according to the preliminary findings of research into NSW dairy farmers’ use of the technology on-farm to automate and individualise the management of dairy cows.

Project leader from the Harris Park Group research team Pauline Brightling said she could see why farmers automated the day-to-day tasks, but there was a lot more opportunity to capture.

“We found they were very focused on automating everyday tasks, which makes sense,” Dr Brightling said.

“For example, with an automatic draft gate and collars, using it to more easily cut-out certain cows or keep them aside for mating. That’s its immediate (use), whereas not so much use is being made of the data which comes out of this technology, particularly the collars and activity metres at a herd level.”

“There’s opportunity to use technology at a management level as well as an individual task level.

The project was funded by the NSW Dairy Industry Fund, which funds “big picture, strategic plans” for the state’s industry.

Dr Brightling said the purpose of the research was to find out what sort of technology dairy farmers were using and then look for ways that this technology — or the use of it — could help farmers innovate to improve their profitability.

Other findings from the preliminary research (the final report is due at the end of June) include, there’s been a high uptake of activity metres on NSW dairy farms but 21 per cent of NSW farms do not use any herd management software.

“The exercise book is still kind on one in five farms in NSW,” the report said.

The first part of the research involved developing a “tech matrix” logging all the technology available for dairy farmers.

Dr Brightling said the Australian technology marketplace was “about as complex as it gets” with a lot of original equipment manufacturers providing product from the northern hemisphere, which gets altered to suit Australia’s pasture-based system, combined with local or southern hemisphere products.

This project is set to provide insight into these different technologies, such as what brands work with each other, in a bid to form a guide for farmers if or when they choose to invest.

A total of 102 NSW dairy farmers responded to the survey with 83 per cent of respondents the owner or manager.

The survey found about 60 per cent of dairy farms in NSW were using one or more technologies for individual cow management. Of the 40 per cent which didn’t have these technologies, they all had 300 or less cows.

Autodraft was the most popular technology, on 38 per cent of farms, while activity metres and inline milk metres were installed on 26 per cent of farms.

Of the 26 per cent of farms with activity metres, all have collars and 72 per cent of those with the collars measure cow rumination.

“We are very cognisant that is has been a tough, awful season for farmers in NSW, and we are grateful how much farmers have been prepared to share,” Dr Brightling said of the research.

“Through this research, if farmers are thinking about investing in technology, when it is right for them, they can capitalise on all the expertise and titbits farmers can bring to the table.”