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Are Best Dairy Producers Moving Beyond Herd Management?

Written by Matija Kopić on October 1, 2021

blog_no_hm_01

Of course they are.

I’ve had the pleasure of discussing the present and the future of Herd Management with a number of dairy and cattle producers in the last couple of months - across the world - while challenging them to think about their operations in a totally different way. I have discovered very early that the topic of herd management resonates really well with producers: if you are one of them and you’re reading this text, then you probably feel extremely comfortable talking about protocols and breeding cycles, Presynch and Ovsync, Lameness and Mastitis. And you would be absolutely correct for having that inner drive to discuss these subjects, because many of these influence your daily operational performance and levels of success, in many ways.

Let me briefly describe how the discussion would evolve: first, we would start chatting about incarnation(s) of the herd management concept currently living on their farm, probably in some form of a herd management software system or a solution accompanying the milk parlor. Some of the discussions would then move on to the conclusion how “great and reliable these systems are, in helping us maintain our daily tasks - and create cow lists.” A significant portion of my chats continue with producers explaining for hours how inefficient, primitive, and hard to use their herd management systems are.

Cow list - that crucial and simple piece of information which seems like the (real) Center of the Dairyman’s Universe. I’ve seen cow lists in digital spreadsheets, on papers, in smartphone inboxes; being carried through the barn by the eager dairy students, torn into pieces by very bitter veterinarians, and even get framed and hung because of the extraordinary results that random list of ID’s may have achieved on a beautiful April day. Trust me: I’ve created cow lists and created web tools which create cow lists.

Many of my discussions with producers end up dramatically, after I conclude with asking a simple question: “Do you think that generating cow lists and managing your cow’s life is enough for running your operation to its full potential?” A lot of producers pause and think indefinitely and want me to elaborate on this strange question, some become defensive and start questioning my motives, while a number of them smile in acknowledgment and reply instantly or within seconds: “It is not enough, we know - but we have neither means or time to do better.”

My discussions with these great people end up dramatically positive - yes indeed. We end up talking how Means to Do Better actually come down to technology advancements, data aggregation and analytics, web security and standardization, enterprise management and resource planning - and how Farmeron embodies these concepts in a way previously unknown to the dairy industry.

It’s time to be honest. Yes, we at Farmeron do believe that the Age of Herd Management is rapidly coming to its end, only to be expanded with the more holistic management approach that takes into consideration both performance and financial side of the dairy business. A new paradigm is emerging. Farmeron wishes to bring the concept of dairy activity-based costing to life through a practical implementation of a cloud-based software platform for producers to gain real-time insight into the relationships between specialized solutions (milking equipment, precision nutrition, crop farming, weather sensors, RFID systems, animal activity monitoring) and overall financial performance of their farming operation - whether that’s on an animal, herd, or farm-level.

Although so many of our dairy recording activities today revolve around tracking an animal’s health and breeding programs, these are almost never enough of an input into the process of constantly monitoring our activities, capacity utilization, waste, quality, side effects of decisions, cost efficiency and profitability on different levels. It is time for our industry to evolve to a point where both our daily, tactical decisions - and more strategic ones - are to be thoroughly analysed and made with a broad understanding of their impact to the farm’s bottom line: whether that’s a simple Mastitis treating protocol or a decision to expand our herd. It is time to put a cost stamp on every single one of our activities. It is time to start tracking every single dollar invested in our animal, in real time - and ultimately go beyond the concepts of Yesterday and Today: because Tomorrow awaits.

Only by figuring out the format of connecting all aspects of the business in order to track our current performance - thus efficiently recognizing parts of our business model which could be improved, and supporting that process continuously - we can start devising future scenarios depicting impacts of certain decisions on our future margins, cow flows and cash flows.

Farmeron now offers the technology supporting the semi-automated process of gaining and maintaining continuous insight into overall production and financial performance of a farm. While the industry finds new ways to improve herd management itself, Farmeron empowers the Dairyman of the new era by broadening his attention from Herd to the Business - with an eye on the herd being a most valuable asset, on animals being walking, sensitive and extremely complex profit centres. No more herd management, please.

There are seven truths we recognize and keep a great care of here at Farmeron:

  1. Data being generated on a modern dairy farm today is not utilised to full extent (or not at all) in the process of managing the Dairy Enterprise. Farmeron provides the technology to connect different datasets into a single unified database.

  2. Activity-based costing as a proven way to describe the resource-consuming logical object did not exist in dairy management systems until now. Every single Farmeron activity data record - whether its describing feeding, fertility, health or milk production - has a $ cost stamp on it, beside the transactional description of the time dimension. It’s the basis for analysing the impact of each resource-driving activities to dairy’s bottom line.

  3. Profitability and financial performance analysis in running the dairy business was a manual and spreadsheet-heavy labor until now. Farmeron removes the need to manually integrate data streams and use spreadsheets to calculate margins, thus saving valuable analysis time.

  4. Profitability and financial performance analysis in running the dairy business was done from time to time until now, leaving the gap in between. Farmeron provides the Movie instead of a Snapshot.

  5. Analytical engines aimed at mining different fully integrated dairy data sets did not exist until now. Farmeron provides the technology to create comprehensive production and profitability-monitoring templates - with the ease of use in mind.

  6. Different stakeholders involved in the daily operational or long-term strategic decision making process always had the need to collaborate on dairyman’s data. Farmeron’s cloud infrastructure facilitates a powerful collaboration environment which allows every single dairy stakeholder to gain a real-time insight into the current performance of a dairy.

  7. Understanding Today is a prerequisite for thinking about future development scenarios. Farmeron introduces powerful tools to project future scenarios (like Herd enlargement planning) and constantly measures the current performance against the plan we have devised. We wish to turn our dairy businessman into a powerful decision maker competent to quickly understand how different products, technologies, services, and other resources can influence his cash flow position both in short and long term perspective.

At our first World Dairy Expo ever, Farmeron is honored to present these ideas for managing the dairy of the future through the power of the Cloud. On the other hand, if you wish to see how it’s done today, just visit some of the best dairies around and ask for their Farmeron.

We’re at booth AR 491!

 

Dealing with heat stress for calves

Written by Zeljko Riha on July 30, 2021

Photo by anthrophysis.blogspot.com

Photo by anthrophysis.blogspot.com

 

With summer temperatures over 32°C as we wrote in our blog post “Heat stress is bad for your herd“, can also negatively impact calf health and performance. Heat stress causes increased respiration and body temperature, rapid dehydration and reduce immune system function.

 

Calf’s maintenance energy requirement is elevates, similar to the effects of cold stress.

 

Precision dairy management and Farmeron

Written by Dave Saunders on July 16, 2021

Photo by Precision Dairy Management

Photo by Precision Dairy Management

 

Precision dairy technologies are used to measure physiological, behavioral, and production information for individual animals.  Dr. Jeffrey Bewley has stated that “the primary goals of precision dairy farming are to:

 

1) maximize individual animal performance,
2) detect diseases early, and
3) minimize the use of medication through preventive health measures.”

 

At the first ever Precision Dairy Expo in Rochester Minnesota precisiondairy.umn.edu, a variety of speakers presented various evidence for the success of precision dairy technologies and directions for future research.  As a cloud-based farm management service, Farmeron is uniquely positioned to bring all of this data together in a single cloud instance, further accelerating the trend towards precision dairy business management.  What will the real-time business of a dairy look like in the future?  For hints, I provide a summary below of a few interesting talks at the recent Expo.

 

Doug Reinemann from the University of Wisconsin presented on Managing Milk Quality in Automatic Milking Systems (AMS).  He wrote the ISO standard for AMS.  Three types of categories for Milk Quality:  Undesirable (colustrum, decision must be made before milking to divert), Withheld (milk with antibiotic residues, decision made when treatment begins), Abnormal (visibly changed in color or texture, decision made when detected by humans).  Today humans use data streams best on how to rank cows based on SCC test and non AMS info such as DIM, Season of the year, SCC history, and CM history.  Sensing systems we have now are a decision aid, but not good enough to autonomously divert milk.  When systems become good enough to autonomously divert milk, quality can rise as can the overall scale of a typical operation - a trend (increasing size of dairy farms) that is already being realized today.

Farmeron: New Animal profile

Written by Ana Herman on July 10, 2021

Blog_Animal_Profile

 

 

New animal profile features are created to enable farmers to monitor and make real-time decisions based on bottom-line data and performance metrics. All animal-related data, operational and financial, from the entry (birth or external entry) to the exit (death or sell) is found here.

 

Animal profile is structured according to same logic as dairy module, since each and every animal is dairy business in small. Animal is an asset and basic building block in money-making potential where all good and bad farm management practices are reflected. This means that EACH ANIMAL IS A PROFIT CENTER with tracked, assigned and displayed total income and cost structure during its lifetime. Not just direct costs or incomes, but all income streams along with all supporting and committed costs are envisioned to be assigned to the animal level on activity-based costing method, work orders and capacity management. Having individual animal as a bottom-line entity, all these performance and financial metrics are approachable from higher organizational layers, such as feeding groups, animal locations, lactations, age, birth year, partner, herd, farm etc.

 

6 Tips for Reproduction Management

Written by Zeljko Riha on July 5, 2021

Photo by www.farmers-care.com

Photo by www.farmers-care.com

 

Do you care about reproduction management on your farm? Higher total life-time milk production and more calves born per year are just two of the economic benefits of improved reproduction.

 

Best practices for improved reproduction performance include observation and quality insemination as well as the following factors:

 

Happy Independence Day

Written by Zeljko Riha on July 4, 2021

 Independence Day
 
Dear American farmers, dear friends,
 
we are taking this opportunity to remember heritage and impressive history of the United States of America. We hope everyone has a enjoyable and beautiful day. Don’t forget, if you ate today, thank a farmer.
 
Farmeron team wishes you all happy Independence Day! 

 

 

Heat stress is bad for your herd

Written by Zeljko Riha on June 27, 2021

Photo by www.intechopen.com

Photo by www.intechopen.com

 

Summer is here, and with all good things, summer is also bringing high temperatures which are not so good for your herd. Heat stress takes its toll on your herd in several ways. We recently found this great article on agweb.com and we are sharing it with you.

 

It is a an article by Rick Lundquist who is an independent nutrition and management consultant based in Duluth, Minn. He provides livestock production advice.  He talked with Dr. Robert Collier of the University of Arizona.
 

Dairy Carrie: Why are dairy cows skinny?

Written by Zeljko Riha on June 12, 2021

Dairy cows - photo by hartkeisonline.com

Dairy cows - photo by hartkeisonline.com

 

There is a lot of agriculture/farming resources to read on the internet. Manny farmers write  their own blogs. One of them is a great blog from Carrie Mess, also known as Dairy Carrie.

 

Carrie’s blog post about why are dairy cows skinny is very useful. Carrie wrote in her blog post:  I have often had people ask me why my cows are so skinny. Online I have seen people make claims that dairy cows are skinny because dairy farmers are milking them all the time and causing their bodies to burn out. Of course I have a different take on this information.  Let’s take a look at some reasons why dairy cows are skinny.

 

Hoard’s Dairyman: Cow flow is crucial

Written by Zeljko Riha on June 11, 2021

Cow
We found this interesting article on the Hoards Dairyman farm magazine. And we are sharing it with you on our blog. It is called “Cow flow is crucial” and it is written by Amanda Smith, Hoard’s Dairyman Associate Editor.

 

Most dairies have three enterprises on-farm: cows, cropping and heifers. Within this subset, the cost of raising replacements also accounts for one of the top three costs of producing milk. At the Tri-State Dairy Nutrition Conference, Greg Bethard, with G & R Dairy Consulting, discussed common inefficiencies in heifer raising programs and how to determine if you are efficiently replacing your herd.

 

Alltech Symposium - A Glimpse into the future of 2020

Written by Zeljko Riha on June 7, 2021

Farmeron at Alltech symposium

 

For three days in late May, Farmeron team has been a part of an amazing event organized by Alltech in Lexington, Kentucky. Alltech is one of the world’s major animal nutrition & health companies, taking pride in their natural approach to innovation in animal nutrition and well-being. The company was founded by dr. Pearse Lyons 30 years ago, and runs along the mission of improving animal health and performance by adding nutritional value to animal diets. Dr. Lyons has been a true leader, which has taken his company into exploring bold new product and market initiatives like algae, aquaponics - farming the sea, mycotoxin suppression etc.

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