Discussion on how to apply the latest technology to improve dairy farming efficiencies in the years ahead was one of the focal points of last week’s Dairy Show, an event which drew more than 6,000 visitors to the Bath & West Showground in Somerset.
“Technological innovation is accelerating and growing, with agri-tech being key to achieving more production with less impact,” said Duncan Forbes, dairy research director at Kingshay.
“With the global population growing, farmers will have to produce 60-70% more food by 2050, while also reducing their environmental impact – and technology could help them to achieve both those targets.”
Mr Forbes drew attention to work going on at the Dairy EPI Centre, located adjacent to the showground, where a wide range of technology is being trialled, prior to being rolled out across the industry.
Current development items include a fabric roof, which lets in more light and reduces costs, compared with other structures; robotic milking and feeding machines, which are improving milk and feed efficiencies; automatic wall curtains, linked to environmental sensors, to ensure the housing is optimal for cow comfort; smart cow collars for monitoring activity and rumination and offering an early indication of sickness.
“The centre is also using drones to measure grass availability, dry matter, energy and protein content, helping to plan rotational grazing to maximise feed efficiencies,” said Mr Forbes. “If we need to be buffer feeding we can make sure it’s totally complementary to the grass the cows are eating on that day.
“Taking automatic monitoring to the next level is a 3D camera which records the cows’ body condition, mobility score and weight every time they pass underneath it.
“If you automate measurements, and use artificial intelligence to turn the collected data into actions, that frees up your time and enhances your stockmanship. It also makes the industry an exciting place for workers, attracting new blood, which is always important.”
Vet of the future
The Show also created an opportunity to celebrate the ‘brightest and best new entrants’ into the veterinary sector with the Dairy Industry Vet of the Future competition selecting Sophie Wilson as champion among some ‘tight competition’.
“The standard of the projects submitted was outstanding,” said Mike Steele from sponsor Micron Bio-Systems.
Miss Wilson did her research project at the University of Nottingham on the pathogenesis of claw horn disease, and is now working in general farm practice at NorCal Vets in Oxfordshire.
“I’m thrilled to win – it’s a real honour,” she said.
Pictured above is the supreme interbreed champion, three-year old Ayrshire heifer Allstar Triclo Joybell. “The last time we came to the Dairy Show was in 2013 and we won the supreme championship then,” said owner Blaise Tomlinson, who milks 230 cows near Loughborough, Leicestershire. “Joybell is a big animal but she’s very easy to work with and she’s got real style, which is something you can’t breed for.”