More and more often these days you will spot a little bracelet on the arms of friends, neighbors, and strangers. The health trend for monitoring daily footsteps is catching on. Since I now sport one of these, I have the advantage of having actual proof that I am not moving around enough. Ironically, before I ever was gifted with this performance monitor, I was fascinated at more than one dairy trade show to see the growing number of activity monitoring systems which have been developed for use on dairy farms. In fact, activity monitors are just the tip of the dairy tech iceberg.
When you’re in the barn, how much technology should you use?
There is always the need to improve reproduction, reduce labor and lower costs. Is technology this generation’s miracle worker? We are told, it can make managers faster, smarter and more profitable. The promise is that technology brings myriad benefits to dairy progress but where is the line between too little and too much. Growing demand means that an ever-increasing number of companies see the potential in developing and marketing these systems.
The Million Dollar Question
“When does a greater technology presence provide the most benefits.”
The 21st Century Answer
Our dairies aren’t using too much technology.
They’re not using enough!
If we intend to be relevant for future generations of consumers and farmers, we have to prepare ourselves for the world that is going to exist. To put it simply. It’s all about evolution. As you read this, children are growing up with technology. We are moving into a futuristic dairy world. Fewer and fewer producers are having to produce more and more products. This agricultural shift alone means that we need to understand and use technology. Admittedly ongoing economic situations in Europe and fluctuating or declining markets in other countries have some feeling reluctance to invest in the future. But if there is to be a viable future for dairying, investing is exactly what must happen.
How Do These Systems Transform Dairy Processes?
When you work in an industry with as much passion and persistence as the dairy industry has, you don’t have to go far to hear find partnerships of – breeders- science- and business people who are creating new products that are revolutionizing day to day performance.
“No one is talking about what their product might do, they’re talking about what it does.”
Like a well-oiled team, technology developers send out their most charismatic people with videos, brochures, and hands-on displays. If you are exposed to one of these presentations, it’s hard not to feel that you have had a peek into the future. But there is no cause for trepidation. Even though the technology is leading edge, the best presenters keep the explanations (and implementation) grass roots simple. They know that information is key to being successful and profitable in the modern dairy business. They say, “The better you align your goals with your profitability, the clearer your technology needs will become. Whether it’s labor, nutrition, production or genetics, technology can assist the potential in each area.”
Do Monitors Eliminate Interaction with The Cows?
The goal is not to eliminate the need for interaction with the dairy herd. It is to make it easier to focus effectively on priorities.
“Now your cows can talk to you!”
And it isn’t just the dairy manager that gains an advantage. There are applications for consultants and nutritionists too. Modern technology is putting tech in the hands of every person who is on the dairy team.
“Like all tools, the technology works best when it is properly implemented.”
Tech is ready to change the way we think about making thousands of daily management decisions. The great thing with most of the new products is that the learning curve for anyone interested is almost instant and is well supported by the developers. We have all wanted to take advantage of new technology and had to work through the slow process of learning, re-learning and fixing the accompanying software. Dairy technology companies that will have an impact and thrive in today’s market know that solving learning hurdles is key to everyone’s success.
Know What to Ask Before Making the Decision to Purchase a Technology Monitoring System
- Is training or support is provided with the system?
- What warranty period is there on the system and its components?
- How large an area is covered? Can the system read activity tags in all parts of the barn or pasture?
- How large of an area will the tag reader or antenna cover?
- How long will it take to pay back the cost of the system?
- What is the warranty period on the system and/or its components?
- Is there another farm in the area using the system that I could visit?
- Is the activity system compatible with my current herd management software?
- What other technology will I need (i.e. Internet connection) for this system to work?
- When you talk to users of the technology, be sure to ask them what problems they had and how they overcame them.
You are now prepared for the fun of taking a day (or more) away from the farm to bring yourself up-to-date on the latest innovations in livestock production. Here are some that catch the interest of The Bullvine.
vetMEDRIA SENSOR – Cow Monitoring System is Dedicated to Reliable Real-Time Data
The Medria system provides information on heat detection, rumination, feeding behavior, health monitoring and calving time monitoring. It uses cellular communication instead of the internet, and it is an integrated system- HeatPhone, FeedPhone, VetPhone, SanPhone. They system sends text messages about group changes in water or feed consumption and rumination. It reports cows at risk due to changes in behavior, as well as cows in heat, etc. When I first learned about this system in 2015, there was tremendous interest around the World Dairy Expo booth. At that time Medria Technologies founders Jean-Pierre Lemonnier and Emmaneul Mounier (2004 in Brittanny France) pointed out, “Medria Technologies has a full line totally oriented to farm management.” and they reported that over 4000 farmers in more than 10 European countries were already using Medria’s monitoring solutions. Those first eleven years were providing positive results, proving “how need this device is and how successful it can be in the monitoring and early detection of reproduction and animal health problems.”
Now WIC has Been Added to the GEA MixFeeder
In July of 2016, GEA introduced the Wireless Integrated Control (WIC) system which is an intelligent software for its proven MixFeeder. The new system ensures that every performance group receives the optimal mix ration of raw feed, concentrated feed and minerals in the right volumes at the most appropriate intervals. The WIC delivers the feed precisely and reliably around the clock. This benefits milk producers and herd managers as it ensures that their cows are always performing at their full potential, thereby improving milk volumes and quality and reducing workload and costs.
The WiIC software enables staff to access the system from the PC, touch panel or their smartphone, wherever they happen to be, via the local network or the internet. This gives producers and herd managers greater freedom, while still enabling them to have full control over the entire feeding process. The system can also send alerts via SMS if required. These messages can then be acknowledged with a simple reply text. Staff can also manage individual functions and get basic information on the touchscreen on the feeder itself.
There are numerous great products on the market and many more that will be introduced and demonstrated at upcoming shows. EuroTier is held every two years in Hanover, Germany and from November 15 to 18 this year, there will be exhibitors highlighting products to support breeding, feeding, husbandry, management, logistics and animal health. Once again, the future beckons!
Introducing the Robot Named, “ROVER!”
Rover is a new self-propelled robot whose debut appearance will be at EuroTier. Rover will show how it can not only automatically mix and feed and dispense it to the cows but also push up that feed as it passes. This new robotic feeding system was developed by Rovibec in Quebec, Canada and will be distributed in parts of Europe by Schauer Agrotronic in Austria.
The Bullvine Bottom Line
Modern technology developers are just like every one of us who has a piece of dairy in their DNA. They are eagerly taking a bold and imaginative place in the product line between the stable and the table. Whether you walk the aisles of World Dairy Expo in Madison or the Euro-Tier Show in Hanover Germany, you will be inspired by visionary companies with the courage to lead. Technology is an area of dairying that is moving at the speed of change and helping dairy operators to take a progressive, sustainable and profitable step into the future. Where are you? Too much? Or Not enough?