The barn is quiet and dark.  There are the soft sounds of animals moving.  In the shadows you home in on the blue glow of a laptop, your ears pickup the “Old McDonald” ring of a caller ID and then the lights come on automatically from the app on your smart phone. Digital has arrived in the dairy barn and you and your team are taking every advantage it has to offer.

Personally, I look at digital and social media as a year round World Dairy Expo for the dairy industry: something new to learn; something to fill a need; something to share; something for buying; something for selling.  It isn’t necessary to rush out and get everything all at once.  Simply identify the application that speaks to your current dairy goals.  Then buy one or more as it works for your needs. There is something for everyone, and app for everything.

The Digital Dairy Bucket List

It is reported that as high as 95% of dairy farmers already have Smart Phones. Growing numbers of IPhones, iPads and Android mobile phones are conveniently waiting in coveralls, tractor cabs and milking parlors. They are the next generation of technology.  They are much simpler to invest in and learn to use but, like robotic milkers, they have filled the bucket list wish of an industry where labor savings and more data are needed to keep dairying viable and sustainable. Where once using GPS for crop management was groundbreaking, today’s leading edge dairy managers are ready to apply technology to the whole operation.  If you can name a problem you would like solved, there’s is probably a techie close by (or half the world away) who is ready to create an APP so that you can solve it. Furthermore, you don’t have to wait to get back to your computer or farm office.

Remember the days when even simple logistics of handling farm schedules meant waiting.  Being “out of touch” with drivers, deliveries or information.  Never being quite sure when, who or what was going to arrive, you had to stay in sight of the lane or the barn for fear of missing a loosely scheduled event. Today, delaying your schedule because of lack of information isn’t normal and, in most cases, puts a negative mark beside the name of the service provider who hasn’t respected your time enough to keep you in the loop. Social media and the internet means both of you know when and why you’re getting together and what is needed to make the meeting productive.  No wasted time getting up to speed.  Social media and other digital platforms is all about speed and effectiveness.

Whether it’s the weather, low milk prices or yet another outbreak of mastitis, social media and the internet provides an outlet, if not for solutions, at least for support. Shared problems seem easier when you realise that you’re not the only one.

Before, During and After Face-to-Face

Regardless of where you are at with the uptake of social media, it is quite probable that your suppliers, vets and consultants are continuously upgrading their abilities in using this new tool.  Not only does it connect customer and supplier but it connects the knowledge base worldwide.  If you’ve got a question, a “connected” consultant becomes your personal expert in solving problems, creating formula, or determining anything from budgets, to rations, to customized designs for pens, feeders or housing facilities. Entire supply chains move to a new level of speed, accuracy and productivity in the digital mode.

Remember when you were happy to have two or three people to seek out for advice?   How about 200?  Or 2000 to work on a problem? The actual potential goes way beyond that.  A continuously connected dairy community is like having a personal genie in a lamp…. ooops…. genie in a handheld device!!

Calling All Cows

I’ve got a neighbour who has had video cameras installed.  He uses his phone to check calving pens and the barnyard.  Sometimes Facebook, more often on Twitter people ask for and share solutions to problems they are dealing with.  The great thing is that it all happens in real time.  Describe the problem and it is quite likely you will have several suggestions of how to deal with it. This speed goes beyond the simple, “Time is money” that we have always had to deal with.  It provides a real source of confidence that someone has always got the answer.  Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, Pinterest, Tumblir or Instagram — we now have a tool that makes it possible to access buyers, nutritionists and vets or any other number of experts – and provide them with picture, text, figures and background—instantly! At the very least, the dialogue is started.   (Read more: The Shocking Speed of Social Media and the Dairy Industry, How Social Media Is Changing the Holstein World and The Anti-Social Farmer: On the Verge of Extinction?)

Show and Sell

Of course, the closer we get to dollars and cents of dairying, the more the benefits of digital provide payback!  Good business has always depended on word of mouth and now that feature too is vastly speeded up and the reach multiplied. No longer are smaller operations at a disadvantage when competing beside large ones. The playing field is much more level. Marketing from your own interconnected website, Facebook page and Twitter account can drive interest in your embryos, calves or cows far faster than previous hard copy, or traditional advertising methods alone were able to. (Read more:7 Reasons Why Your Dairy Farm Needs To Be On Facebook, Nothing Sells Like Video and Times have changed. Why hasn’t the way you market your dairy cattle?)  Cost effective and fast. Digital is a dairy marketer’s dream.  The ability for buyers and sellers to interact, showcase their news, products and daily stories builds a marketplace of trust, which is the foundation for dairy business … and best of all …repeat dairy business.

Day to Day Decisions.

Digital is the 24-7 partner at your side.  It starts with monitoring and data collection and enhances everything from early disease detection, to better care coordination and other services that keep our herds healthy and productive.  When everyone whose daily job in any way touches the cattle has real time continuous connections, new situations are updated and problems tackled by every person and resource that is available.  For example, spring has finally arrived. The fields are exceptionally wet and there haven’t yet been two days in a row where the weather didn’t provide a challenge of some kind, from chill winds, heavy rains and even a moment or two of nearly-snow-again.  Equipment repairs and annual bookkeeping want attention too.  Multi-tasking is the name of the game but, once again, identify the dairy problem and someone will provide input.  “I saw one of those for sale.” or “We have had good luck with these to keep the calves warm!” and even. “Don’t have an answer for you but, ‘Good Luck’.

The Sunny Side of Dairy Life

It’s wonderful – even fantastic – that the digital future is expanding problem solving capabilities.  It is also tremendous at bringing communities together. A little surfing around the Internet and it doesn’t take long to find wonderful blogs and socially active producers such as DairyCarrie, AgChat and Michele Payn-Knoper and Tom Hoogendoorn– to name but a few (Read more: Dairy Carrie – Diary of a City Kid Gone Country, Michele Payn-Knoper – Standing Up and Speaking Out for Agriculture!! and TOM HOOGENDOORN- Family man, Farmer & Our Face to the Consumer!). Here are opportunities to connect with like mind dairy folks but they also have the added benefit of connecting non-farm communities in a positive way.  One of the most unique connections that I “stumbled upon” was Teats and Tweets which is described as “a unique social media project that looks at the way humans interact with animals and has the cows posting their daily activities on Twitter.” How far out is that?  There is always something to tweak your interest and help you to push the envelope in this industry we are all passionate about.

From Penside to Worldwide

As we gain new ways to use digital for continuous connections and interactions, we will take great leaps forward in solving the issues of modern day dairy farming.  The best results will be continuously adapted and improved … others will be modified or fall by the wayside.  Digital means you can have a voice.  From politicians, to researchers, to someone on the other side of the globe, it is possible to communicate and campaign on key issues – while standing at the side of a calf pen or in the milkhouse.   Perspectives can be shared.  Misinformation corrected.  It is the level playing field that has never been accessed so easily until now.  (Read more: DAIRY PRIDE: Presumed MISSing! “Farmed and Dangerous” – The Dairy Farmer’s Never Ending Battle with Public Perception and What PETA Does NOT KNOW about Raising Dairy Cattle!

The Bullvine Bottom Line

Trends in technology have found their way into every aspect of dairy farming.  Not only are they bridging gaps in communication but also they connect generations of farmers, consumers and dairy industry shareholders.  The future is in our hands.

 

 

 

To learn how to get your farm on Facebook download this free guide.