Archive for New Technology

Best Practices when Buying New Technology for Your Dairy Operation

Last week, while, at World Dairy Expo, I took the opportunity to attend a seminar presented by Jeffrey Bewley from the University of Kentucky. His topic was New Monitoring Technologies May Help Manage Cow Reproduction and Health. Before Dr. Bewley started I wondered what his take home message would be and if it would have been better for me to attend another seminar on breeding for feed efficiency.  With more than one topic of interest going on simultaneously and not being able to clone myself, it meant that a choice had to be made. I will need to catch up on the materials shared on feed efficiency via electronic means however the ideas shared by Dr. Bewley struck a desirable note for me.

New Technologies Leading Change

Dr. Bewley started his presentation by stating “Technologies are quickly changing the shape of the dairy industry across the globe. In fact, many of the new technologies being applied to the dairy industry are variations of base technologies used in larger industries such as an automobile or personal electronic industries. These new technologies will continue to change the way dairy cattle are managed, bred and fed.”

Dr. Bewley’s presentation focused on numerous devices that are being connected simultaneously to cows in the University of Kentucky herd to measure performance, reproduction and animal health. Individual cows have more than one device attached to them so that the data captured can be inter-related. He strongly stressed that knowing single observations without knowing other measurements on a cow does not make the dairyman’s job easier. In fact, it makes it harder. Lots of data but no way of linking a piece of information from one device to another does not help make better decisions. In Dr. Bewley’s words “data is only useful if it translates into meaningful actions that herd managers can apply”.

Which Device(s) to Invest In?

The number of devices mentioned, by Dr. Bewley that the team at the University of Kentucky are testing was overwhelming. However, Dr. Bewley did provide thoughts on criteria for dairymen to use when deciding on equipment.

Ideal Technology       

  • Must be cost effective not just something that is nice to have.
  • Needs to be flexible, robust and reliable (barns are harsh environments).
  • Best if device is simple to use and the data captured is solutions focused.
  • Information needs to be quickly available and user-friendly.
  • Equipment supplier needs to be available 24/7 to troubleshoot.


  • New technology is not a fit for every dairy. Trial it before you buy it.
  • Some devices are brought to market before they are fully field tested.
  • Software is not always user-friendly. Test if it works for you.
  • Some devices are developed and sold without consideration for work patterns on farm.
  • Avoid stand-alone devices that cannot be linked to other on-farm technology.

How to Judge Benefits

  • Will the information produced be more accurate than was previously available?
  • Will the information provided save on labor costs?
  • Will the information provided lead to increased profit per cow per day?
  • Will the information result in improved product quality?
  • When using the device will there be minimal environmental impact?
  • Will your cows be healthier, have improved reproduction and be more profitable?
  • Will managing the herd be easier and less time-consuming?
  • If a device cannot provide at least two of the above benefits then don’t buy it!

Lessons Learned

Dr. Bewley and his team of researchers have focus on Precision Dairy Farming. Some of the lessons they have learned include:

  • Be cautious about buying early stage technologies.
  • Take the time to thoroughly learn how to use the technology and interpret the results.
  • Integrating the data from the various on-farm technologies takes an expert.
  • Having qualified customer service available is crucial.
  • Give priority to buying devices that will have the largest impact on profit.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

The application of precision dairy farming technologies is important as herd size increases and margins narrow. A good place to get an objective view on technologies that apply to health and reproduction is the University of Kentucky website. Of course, another good source of information are breeders that have already installed the technology. Ask them both what’s good and what’s not so good about the device. By all means identify where your operation can be improved and then pencil out the cost – benefit of each technology. Applying technology will be a leading contributor to profitability and sustainability on dairy farms in the future.



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From Beakers to Breakthroughs Milk Reveals Its Secrets

The breaking news out of Australia was all about milk. “Unlocking milk’s formula could save lives say scientists” from Monash University.

The opportunities that could (grow) from this study include:

  • New formulas for premature babies
  • Weight loss drinks
  • New drug delivery systems

This ground breaking research was published in the journal ACS Nano, the Monash University For the first time the research goes well beyond the known nutritional values of milk and provides detailed insights into the structure of milk during digestion. This study delves into the detailed structure of milk and how its fats interact with the digestive system.

Research Reveals Interaction of Milk and Digestion

This unique approach to the study of the makeup of milk was funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC). Dr Stefan Salentinig and Professor Ben Boyd from the Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences (MIPS) led the team that looked at the nanostructure of milk to find out how its components interact with the human digestive system. Their findings are detailed in the article published in 2013:  Formation of Highly Organized Nanostructures during the Digestion of Milk. The Australian team discovered milk has a highly geometrically ordered structure when being digested. Dr Salentinig said the research provides a blueprint for the development of new milk products. It could also lead to a new system for drug delivery. “By unlocking the detailed structure of milk we have the potential to create milk loaded with fat soluble vitamins and brain building molecules for premature babies, or a drink that slows digestion so people feel fuller for longer. We could even harness milk’s ability as a ‘carrier’ to develop new forms of drug delivery.”

Breakthrough Research is Needed for Dairy Development

The dairy industry urgently requires this kind of breakthrough science that has the potential to improve global health and cure disease. It is easy from the day to day side of milk production to keep scientific research at arm’s length forgetting that it moves the dairy industry forward.The Monash research team recreated the characteristics of the digestive system in a glass beaker. They then added cows’ milk.  They found that “an emulsion of fats, nutrients and water forms a structure which enhances digestion. The breakthrough made by Monash University team was the discovery that milk has a “unique structure” during digestion, which they have described as “similar to a sponge.” In simple terms Salentinig summarizes”We found that when the body starts the digestion process, an enzyme called lipase breaks down the fat molecules to form a highly geometrically ordered structure. These small and highly organized components enable fats, vitamins and lipid-soluble drugs to cross cell membranes and get into the circulatory system.” 

Specialist Instruments Simulate Digestion

The progress in science gains further impetus from the astonishing progress in recent years in medical technology. Collaborations among physical scientists, engineers, and doctors have given us CAT scans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, and a wide variety of therapeutic devices.  This was also part of the work in Australia. As well as laboratory work at MIPS, the researchers accessed specialist instruments at the Australian Synchrotron to simulate digestion and accelerate the research. Using enzymes present in the body, water was added to milk fat to break it down, and the Synchrotron’s small angle X-ray scattering beam showed that when digested, the by-products of milk become highly organised. Dr Salentinig said the structure is similar to a sponge, potentially enhancing the absorption of milk’s healthy fats. He further elaborates “We knew about the building blocks of milk and that milk fat has significant influence on the flavor, texture and nutritional value of all dairy food. But what we didn’t know was the structural arrangement of this fat during digestion,” The possibilities promise exciting results. “We could even harness milk’s ability as a ‘carrier’ to develop new forms of drug delivery.”

A Post Genomics Revolution

The dairy world has been changed by the genomics revolution and the practical benefits are more evident all the time. It is important to recognize how strong science provides practical benefits to the dairy industry. However, that strong science cannot exist without support.  It is especially important not to neglect fundamental research. It is from this curiosity-driven, disciplinary research that projects such as the one from Monash can contribute to understanding and real progress for the dairy industry. We need research to lead the way to advances in detection, diagnosis and treatment of dairy diseases and even ways to advance human health prevention, diagnosis and treatment.  Although it is unlikely that science and technology will solve all the problems, it is equally unlikely that they will be solved without research.

The Bullvine Bottom Line

With regards to milk, the next phase of the research studies at Monash University includes working with nutritionists to make stronger links between these new findings and dietary outcomes. Ultimately the plan is to utilize these findings to design and test improved medicines.  The Australian researchers have the vision, commitment, and most importantly, the funding. It only proves that Mother was right, “Don’t cry over spilled milk!”  Instead, we should applaud, encourage and support dairy research, wherever we are.



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