Friday, June 28, 2013

2nd North American Precision Dairy Farming Conference

I am about to leave Rochester, Minnesota. A nice city just south of the Twin Cities. On my way here I learned that Rochester is well known because of the Mayo Clinic. In the shuttle from the airport to my hotel, somebody was really surprised that I never had heard of the clinic. This morning I walked through downtown Rochester and it seemd that half of it consisted of the clinic.

Downtown Rochester with in the Middle the Mayo Civic
center where the meeting was held
Anyhow, I was not in Rochester to visit the clinic but to visit the 2nd North American Precision Dairy Farming Conference, organized by the University of Minnesota under leadership of Marcia Endres. The first conference was held three years ago in Toronto, Canada. During that first conference, there wasn't that much good science available yet. This conference showed quite a change: there were plenty of interesting talks. And always surprising to me, there were a large amount of dairy farmers during the conference. I am afraid our Dutch dairy farmers do not go to two-day conferences with lots of scientific knowledge. For us it is interesting, because there were quite a number of farmers panels, explaing what their experience is with certain types of precision dairy farming applications. Good to hear their experiences, but at the same time we have to remember that these were not the average farmers. The organizers had invited an interesting list of renowned keynote speakers: Alex Bach (on feeding management), Jeffrey Bewley (introducting precision dairy farming to us), Albert de Vries (on economics of precision dairy farming), Marcia Endres (on automated calf feeders), Ilan Halachmi (on sensors for disease detection), Margit Bak Jensen (on milk feeding to calves), Ray Nebel (on automated estrus detection), Doug Reinemann (on automated mastitis detection), Jack Rodenburg (on cow traffic in automatic milking), Doyle Waybright (Mason-Dixie farms on farming with automatic milking) and myself (on success factors of precison dairy applications).

Together with Albert de Vries I had the honour to wrap up the conference. It is a bit of a ungrateful honour, because many people are leaving the conference, much of what you want to say has already been told and people just want to go home. On the other hand it is also a nice challenge to make such a talk interesting.

The presentation that I gave can be found here. In short I presented that in my opinion a successful precision dairy farming application (I also call it "sensor system") has to do more than measuring a physiological status in a cow. That data has to be transformed in useful information. Without that information, the sensor is useless. The goal of precision dairy farming applications should be decision support. Sensor information therefore, for some applications, should be combined with other data sources and be associated with decision support tools. There are hardly any applications described in scientific literature (see the review of Niels Rutten) that contain all of these aspects.

Successfull applications should furthermore be economical viable (benefits exceed the costs), although this is not always necessary, for instance in the case of adoption of automatic milking, where quality of life, flexibility of labor etc. are important reasons to invest in automatic milking.

Finally I think that the ultimate goal of precision dairy farming should be to explore the full potential of each individual dairy cow, instead of managing cows in groups. In the old days with small herds, that was possible, with the larger herds, that became difficult, but now with assitance of precision dairy farming technology it is possible again.

1 comment:

  1. I really love farming. But during my free time I love to be with my cats.