Press-Republican

Columns

June 23, 2013

Feeding a growing nation

The dairy industry is an important component of Northern New York’s economy. Every link in the food chain — from the farmer to milk hauler to processors, is dependent on the other for stability and growth. In Northern New York, the number of dairy farms has decreased, the number of cows has decreased, and the human population that the dairy farmers need to feed continues to expand.

While demand for milk is increasing (growing population and yogurt boom), dairy farming profit margins are at a record low. Dairy farmers continue to look at ways to become more efficient as well as take into account consumer demands for food safety, animal welfare and environmental impacts. Precision dairy farming may be one piece of the puzzle to move our dairy farmers into the future.

Precision dairy farming is defined as an information and technology based farm management system to identify, analyze and manage variability within farm management for optimum farm performance, profitability and sustainability. The goals of precision dairy farming are 1) maximize individual animal performance, 2) detect illness early and 3) minimize the use of medication through preventative health measures.

When it comes to dairy cattle, farmers work with the physiology of the cow. They want to prevent activities that could disrupt the metabolic system of the cow. Farmers and their advisers create management protocols that facilitate optimal health of the cow. Prior to making a change to housing, the milking parlor or feed delivery, the farmer and his team of advisers must think about how could this impact the cow? Then ask, will this change help to optimize management practices, environmental conditions, health and reproductive performance and milk production?

Precision dairy farming, like other businesses relies on technology to monitor daily performance of the dairy farm as well as the health status of the cow.

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