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Precision Dairy Farming: A New Technological Marvel In Dairying

Precision Farming refers to the use of technologies that makes farmers less dependent on human labour, supports them in their (daily) management and helps them to improve their farm profitability

Post by on Saturday, April 23, 2022

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Globally around 150 million households are engaged in dairy farming with a production of approximately 860 million tonnes of milk. India is the world's highest milk-producing country with the production of about 187.75 million tonnes of milk which accounts for over 21% of the world milk production. Milk production in the Kashmir Valley has grown over 250% during the last two decades. There are more than 4.70 lac households and household enterprises owning dairy cattle both in rural and urban areas, with the annual milk production of 1.30 million tones, with the per capita availability of more than 490 gm per day (National per capita availability is 394 gm per day). Dairying is one of the most important means of providing livelihood and nutritional security to the masses.

The demand for milk and milk products is increasing, but at the same time the number of dairy farmers is decreasing. As a result, the size of dairy farms and the number of dairy animals on them will continue to increase and there is less time available to attend to individual animals, which makes it more difficult to monitor and manage the animals properly. Dairy farming is a decision-intensive enterprise on a daily basis, which must rely on holistic approach to maintain a profitable system that is accountable to consumers for well-being, environmental impacts, and product quality. With the implementation of prestigious flag-ship UT sector schemes, viz., Integrated Dairy Development Scheme (IDDS), Dairy Development Scheme (DDS), Feed & Fodder Development Scheme (F&FDS), etc dairying with high yielding crossbred cattle is receiving an emphasis which has created employment avenues, led to entrepreneurship development and thereby generated ample scope for developing the dairy farming on commercial lines as a business enterprise.

Now, dairy farming from being traditional family run way of life has grown to an organized dairy industry with technological innovations in feeding, housing, breeding and healthcare management. Precision dairy farming technologies which aim at all such aspects, therefore, offer a great promise for the future development of dairy farming in India as well as in Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir. These changing demographics reflect a continuing change in the way in which dairy operations are managed. The ‘Precision Dairy Farming’ can offer a new ‘technological marvel’ in dairying in coming scenario. Precision Farming refers to the use of technologies that makes farmers less dependent on human labour, supports them in their (daily) management and helps them to improve their farm profitability.

 The main objectives of Precision Dairy Farming are maximizing individual animal potential, early detection of diseases and minimizing the use of medication through preventive health measures. Many Precision Dairy Farming technologies which are already being utilized by progressive dairy farmers are as under:

Walking activity measurement by use of automated system called pedometer allows monitoring of both walking activity and milk production in dairy farm. Such technologies can also be used for early detection of estrus, digestive disorders, ketosis, lameness, etc. Animal behaviour sensors like mercury switches have also been useful to document head movements, walking and lying behavior. Use of sensors are helpful in measuring head angle, head acceleration, leg acceleration, steps (pedometers), swallowing, jaw movements, biting and chewing sounds, weight, heart rate, core temperature (automatic body temperature monitoring system in a dairy farm would be in early detection of diseases, illnesses, or disorders that plague the dairy industry), etc. Global Positioning System (GPS) ‘collar’ for livestock are being used to record detailed position thereby understanding of the habits and spatial distribution of animals.

Daily milk yield recording and milk electrical conductivity can help in early diagnosis of an adverse health event, thereby alerting the dairy farmer at an earlier stage for adopting timely remedial measures. Use of automated sampling and inline milk analysis, for fat/ protein ratio estimation, as an indicator of negative energy balance, as well as measuring Body condition score (BCS) and daily body weight by using video imaging and automatic milking systems or automatic feeders, respectively, reflects the energy status of dairy animal.

Automation in Feeding Practices: Monitoring feeding behavior (rumen pH, rumination and rumen temperature by using electronic devices, like intra-ruminal wireless telemetry, etc) and feed intake by way of electronic feed monitoring system (Feed troughs with measuring capability) assists in the early identification of sick cows. Using Automatic feed dropping control units which have the ability to automatically drop a designated amount of feed into the feed trough of each individual cow thereby reducing labor, cost savings, removal of possibility for human error, etc. To achieve good health   among pre-weaned calves automated calf feeders are being employed. 

Automatic drafting gates: These gates would be a valuable asset to almost any dairy farm and can be operated with herd management software as well.  

Activity-based heat detection with a bolus system located in the dairy cow’s rumen; such technologies offer a reliable, innovative alternative for progressive heat detection and general herd monitoring.

Detection of calving by use of sensors system aide farmers with the detection of the precise moment of calving, thereby mitigates the adverse events, if any due to dystocia, etc.

 

In absence of precision technologies, livestock management decisions will be based almost entirely on the judgment and experience of the livestock farmer. Hence, quantification of these aspects through precision technologies provides an objective measure for identifying individual animals or groups of animals.

Status of Precision Dairy Farming in India: In India, few farms/ organizations have adopted precision technologies which were developed with the help of Indian and foreign companies in dairy farming sector. In the year 2000, the National Livestock Identification Scheme (NLIS) made the use of radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags. These systems provide accurate identification of cows and are linked to pedigree, management events, treatment records, electronic milk meters, computer-controlled feeding, automatic sorting and weighing, etc. On the similar lines, National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) has developed an Information Network for Animal Productivity & Health (INAPH), a desktop/ netbook / android tablet-based field IT application that facilitates the capturing of real time reliable data on breeding, nutrition and health services delivered at farmer’s doorstep. COWEL, AFIMILK, MOIRA (Management of Insemination through Routine Analysis), Herdman, Farm Tree, etc are some of the innovative management systems which provide a professional and comprehensive tool to make day-to-day herd management decisions.

Precision dairy farming in many developing countries including India is in its infancy but there are tremendous opportunities for improvements in individual animal and herd management on dairy farms. Despite widespread availability, adoption of these technologies in the dairy industry has been relatively slow so far. Perceived economic returns from investing in a new technology are likely the main factor influencing Precision Dairy Farming technology adoption. The most progressive producers will adopt those new technologies that appear to be profitable. Though Precision Dairy Farming is in its infancy, new Precision Dairy Farming technologies are introduced to the market each year.

As new technologies are developed in other industries, engineers and animal scientists find applications within the dairy industry. The progressive farmers or the farmers’ groups, with guidance from the public and private sectors, and professional associations, can adopt it on a limited scale as the technology shows potential for raising yields and economic returns on fields with significant variability, and for minimizing environmental degradation. Further, right extension approaches and advisory services for the farmers interested in PDF needs to be undertaken for its effective application under different socio-economic and ecological conditions. In the future, Precision Dairy Farming technologies may change the way we manage our dairy cattle.

(The author is a Veterinarian and Technical Officer (Poultry), Directorate of Animal Husbandry Kashmir, Red Cross Road Gaw Kadal Srinagar.  Email: drfaazilahd@gmail.com)

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