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World Milk Day 2021: How agri-tech is boosting milk production

June 1st marks World Milk Day, a global celebration of the dairy sector and its most widely-consumed produce. Established in 2001 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the day focuses on promoting the benefits of milk and dairy products.

The dairy sector is central to agri-tech innovation, with a wide range of new technologies currently in development and trial. From robotic milking and feeding machines to environmental sensors and smart cow collars, agri-tech is key to improving efficiencies and productivity of the dairy sector, as well as improving animal welfare and care.

Innovative agri-tech solutions that draw on cutting-edge AI, imaging and robotics technologies are also essential to inspiring a new workforce in the sector. “The dairy farm of the future needs to be an exciting place for future generation to work in a world of ever-increasing choice,” reflects Duncan Forbes, Head of Dairy at Agri-EPI Centre.

Forbes continues that agri-tech must rise to the meet the “circular dairy challenge”, which includes achieving sustainability goals such as global net zero targets.

Innovations in dairy sector agri-tech

The range of applications for agri-tech, and the benefits smarter farming solutions can offer dairy farmers, are wide-ranging and exciting. Video is highlighted as an emerging technology for dairy cow management, as well as radar, audio and remote sensors, all of which can be used to monitor the wellbeing of cattle and help farmers make better decisions about their livestock.

SmARTview is one such project taking great strides to drive the adoption of agri-tech across the dairy sector. Currently in the trial stages, Agri-EPI Centre is working in partnership with the University of Bristol and mathematical modelling experts Quant Foundry to use affordable off-the-shelf cameras to monitor minute changes in cow behaviour.

The project aims to develop an AI-based system through which a “hololens” AR headset can recognise individual animals and allow the wearer to view key health and productivity data about livestock in real time.

Combined with machine learning and predictive analytics, the data collected by the SmARtview project can identify early signs of disease and illness in animals, putting quality data at farmers’ fingertips to improve decision-making, productivity and efficiency on-farm.

Looking forwards

 

This World Milk Day, we’re hugely proud to celebrate SmARTview as just one of our many exciting agri-tech innovations in the dairy sector currently being explored. We can’t wait to see what the dairy sector looks like on World Milk Day next year, or even in ten years.

You can find out more about our work in the dairy sector and projects similar to SmARTview on our website.

Increasing buffer feeding precision with new agri-technologies

Faced with rising feed prices, effective use of grass for both grazing and conservation is increasingly important for farmers to maintain margins. Balancing the need to ensure sufficient silage stocks for the coming winter with the desire to get the most from grazing to reduce spend on purchased feed.

As the climate remains unpredictable, as seen by the cold, wet spring of 2020 followed by hot, dry weather, grass growth rates have seen wide variances year-on-year. With so many fluctuations in price and seasonal changes, buffer feeding is likely to be required by many farmers at some stage during the grazing season to prepare for dips in grass growth.

While the majority of buffer feed is made up of maize and grass silage, there are alternatives available. In partnership with molasses blend supplier ED&F Man, Agri-EPI Centre research conducted at the Agri-EPI South West Dairy Development Centre found that including a proportion of straw and molasses-based liquid feed in the buffer feed can offer the dual benefits of allowing production to be maintained whilst preserving valuable silage stocks.

Buffer feeding research

The trial aimed to better understand and analyse the impact of replacing some grass silage in the buffer feed with a mix of wheat straw and Regumix, a high-energy and protein liquid feed made from molasses, compared to the original feed and the molasses/straw buffer feed.

Utilising the centre’s GEA Mullerup automated feeding system, a digitally-controlled system with the necessary precision for feeding trials, and working with Agri-EPI’s operational partner, Kingshay Dairy Consultants, ensured data and delivery protocols were adhered to for reliable results. 

Lower feed costs, greater production

Georgina Chapman, technical support manager at ED&F Man, reported: “Over a six-week period, there was no difference in yield between the cows fed the initial buffer and those where straw and Regumix was included. The cows were mainly later lactation and the animals on the molasses buffer showed similar lactation persistency but slightly better compositional quality.”

“Importantly, for cows in later lactation, there was no difference in body condition changes between the two groups,” she added. “However, there was a saving of 7.5kg silage per cow per day. Assuming 200 cows were fed the new buffer, the total silage saved over the six weeks would have been over 60 tons, giving more for winter feeding.”

In a commercial herd, the buffer feed would probably have been needed for 18 weeks; on closer analysis, this suggested potential savings of closer to 200 tons, which could then be used to increase silage fed per cow per day over winter.

Chapman noted that, as molasses and straw are easily stored and less likely to perish in storage, their inclusion in buffer feed can also contribute to maximising silage production and availability, ultimately maintaining production from grazing and reducing the impact of higher feed costs for farmers.

Agri-technology increases buffer feeding precision

Reviewing the trial results, Agri-EPI Centre’s head of dairy at the South West Dairy Development Centre Duncan Forbes said, “We know growth rates can change very quickly … with the best will in the world no dairy farmer can keep on top of grazing output using manual techniques. At the same time, adjusting buffer feeds on a more frequent basis would be a challenge.”

“Collecting and utilising better management information could help take a significant step in improving grazing use – and new technologies hold the key to this.”

“Integrated use of data and technology in this way can help improve the contribution from grazing, reduce feed costs, improve grazing utilisation and help meet carbon reduction targets for more sustainable systems.”

With further trials already underway using hyperspectral imaging and satellite data to monitor and predict grass growth, helping farmers optimise precision grazing and fine-tune buffer feed, agri-technology continues to support farmers. Agri-EPI’s work to improve agricultural productivity and save farmers time and money even attracted the attention of British Dairying, who covered the buffer feeding precision trials.   

New animal health report highlights lessons learned Covid-19 pandemic

Lessons learned from Covid-19 pandemic highlighted in new animal health report

The animal health industry needs to be better prepared for disruptions like Covid-19 and have resiliency plans in place to handle supply and demand.

This is the ‘lessons learned’ message from Agri-EPI’s Chief Executive Dave Ross in a new report exploring the impact of Covid-19 on the global animal health industry.

Report Animal Health Industry Response COVID19 - Kisaco ResearchThe production of Animal Health Industry Response to COVID-19 and the Rise of Telemedicine was co-ordinated by Kisaco Research. It seeks to assess the full impact of the outbreak across the sector, and provide insight in the form of industry surveys, data collection, discussions, and interviews with market leaders and emerging companies.

Dave was one of 55 contributing experts from around the world. He comments in the report on labour shortages and the skills gap from COVID and Brexit, the issue of food protectionism and overall lessons learned from the advent of the pandemic.

On the latter point, Dave says that the pandemic has exposed the fragility of the food supply chain when a disruptor comes into the market and highlighted the lack of preparations companies and suppliers had to pivot to other markets.

He cites in the report the example of the UK dairy sector, where 35 million litres of milk were being produced a day, pre-Covid. A significant proportion of the approximately 10 million litres destined for the service sector ended up being wasted when demand stopped abruptly due to lockdown. This led to a subsequent price collapse, with the current system ‘not being able to turn off the tap’ on supply.

Dave also highlights how the crisis has brought a renewed focus on the need to reduce food waste, with 9.5 million tons of food being lost each year in the UK.

The report coincides with Animal Health Investment USA, a large scale event on 12 and 13 October connecting businesses and investors around opportunities in the animal health industry. Dave sits on the event’s Global Advisory Board.

To get hold of the report, please get in touch with Kisaco Research.

South West Dairy Development Centre in new 5G connectivity film

Reinvigorating businesses and industries driving rural economies

A new film produced by Cisco in conjunction with BBC StoryWorks describes how 5G-connected technology is being tested at Agri-EPI Centre’s South West Dairy Development Centre in Somerset.

The film, which is being broadcast internationally, highlights how 5G technology has the potential to bridge the connectivity gap between urban and rural areas, helping to ‘reinvigorate the businesses and industries that drive rural economies”.

The purpose of the recent 5G RuralFirst project, led by Cisco and involving Agri-EPI, explored how 5G may be used successfully in rural environments, including on the Somerset dairy farm.

As a cow steps into a robotic milkers at the dairy, sensors recognise the animal, record her health and fertility status and know how much milk she is expected to give. The strong, consistent connectivity that 5G can provide has the power to ensure farmers can get the most out of this real-time data.

In the film, Duncan Forbes, Head of Dairy at Agri-EPI Centre, talks about the great potential of 5G technology to support farming and wider rural communities, saying:

Over the next few years there is going to be an explosion of the technology and there’s an opportunity with this improved connectivity to keep the population in rural area and attract others.”

 

View here the video ‘Connected cows: bridging the urban-rural divide’:

Solutions to nutritional challenges of dairy calf rearing

Optimising lifelong productivity

Calf Research has shown that the way a dairy calf is cared for in its early life stages can have major and long-lasting effects on the lifetime trajectory of that animal. This has significance not just at the farm level, but throughout the industry, where issues such as animal welfare, animal diseases and food safety can have substantial consequences.

Improvements in calf rearing will play a crucial role in the future sustainability of British dairy produce. Many problems exist in current calf rearing systems which threaten to restrict the sustainable development of dairy cattle in the UK. When managed incorrectly, dairy calves are susceptible to a range of health and welfare issues associated with inappropriate nutrition and weaning that can have long term impacts on the lifetime productivity of that animal in the dairy herd.

Calf Research & Innovation Facility

Agri-EPI has made substantial investments in the Calf Research & Innovation Facility, a joint venture with SRUC to facilitate the measurement and management of key elements in calf rearing to optimise lifelong productivity. Colostrum management is the foundation of successful calf rearing. Colostrum contains high concentrations of protective antibodies to support a calf’s immunity, as well as a range of other constituents which are crucial to calf growth and development. Factors such as quality and amount of colostrum, as well as the timescale over which colostrum is delivered can all impact the future health status of an animal.

Getting right the energy and nutrient requirements of each individual animal goes far beyond colostrum. Dry feed, forages and water, as well as supplements and milk replacers also make up significant areas of the calf’s diet and all impact on animal health. Recent research findings suggest that the gut microbiome of the dairy calf is the key opportunity to improve early life gut health.

In partnership with you

The overarching aim of Agri-EPI’s dairy work is to develop and trial precision technology and techniques which support sustainable and productive UK milk production. Under an imminent Agricultural Policy reform, British dairy farmers will be required to constantly adapt, innovate and invest to ensure security for the future of the industry.

Agri-EPI’s Calf Research Facility, at SRUC’s Crichton Royal Dairy Farm in Dumfries, allows the daily monitoring of a calf’s consumption of milk, water, forage and concentrates, and its weight gain. Weigh cells in individual feeders record each calf’s intake every time they eat or drink. The data gathered by the units within the facility can be combined with data from ‘animal-mounted’ sensors, such as anklets recording an animal’s activity levels. The result is a comprehensive picture of an animal’s health and development, and how changes to intakes may influence these factors longer-term. The facility also creates opportunities for longer-term research into how different nutritional strategies may influence an animal’s lifetime health and productivity. For example, by considering how different milk formulations may impact on an animal’s growth and productivity.

Agri-EPI and SRUC are keen to partner with individual farmers, calf feed manufacturers, dairy cooperatives, processors, retailers and the wider supply chain to undertake research and trials to develop the latest technologies and techniques in calf rearing.

Example areas for research and trialling at the facility include:

  • Feed trials
  • Microbiome
  • Growth performance
  • Nutrient digestibility
  • Blood biochemical indices
  • Rumen development

For more information about our Calf Research Facility at SRUC Crichton Royal or to discuss a project/trial idea, please contact Kasi McReddie, Agr-EPI Centre Business Development Manager – Livestock.

New film highlights technology for sustainable dairy production

Dairy Production technology

Agri-EPI’s South West Dairy Development Centre (SWDDC) in Somerset and one of its satellite farm, Parkend Farm in Fife, are featured in a new film highlighting the development of technology in sustainable dairy production.

The video was produced as part of the Horizon 2020 ‘Internet of Food & Farm’ project. It explores the work of the project’s Dairy Trial Team at Strathclyde University, led by Professors Ivan Andonovic and Craig Michie.

The team is looking at sensors and Artificial Intelligence-based solutions for helping farmers increase their herds’ milk yields, based around a new platform called Herdsman+.

Lots of data about a cow’s health, fertility and performance can be collected using tools such as internet-connect collars, leg tags and milking robots. The key to generating the most accurate picture of each cow in the herd is to be able to integrate this data. Herdsman+ does exactly that, analysing the information to allow the farmer to make well-informed management decisions for optimising each animal’s health, welfare and milk yield.

Sustainable dairy

Agri-EPI has supported the Dairy Trial Team by providing data from the SWDDC and Park End dairy farm. The two dairies have also hosted events for farmers to consult them about new and future tools which may support their businesses’ sustainability during these challenging times for the dairy sector.

 


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Science Animated

This video has created by Science Animated is a scientific communication agency who develop engaging and accessible animations based on specific researcher’s work. For more information: https://sciani.com

 

Tag Archive for: Dairy