Better data management key to driving dairy farm decisions

Tools to help dairy farmers collect, manage and analyse on-farm data more effectively must be developed if producers are to improve their management and decision-making.

Data-driven decision making is a necessity on today’s dairy farms, yet many are making important decisions based on intuition and experience, says Victor Cabrera, specialist in dairy management at the University of Wisconsin

Without proper analysis and tools to support them, many of these decisions are inefficient, meaning many farmers are failing to optimise their business’ operations and productivity.

Writing a review on how dairy farmers can improve their performance using data-driven tools in the journal Animal, Cabrera said dairy farming is a highly-dynamic system that requires continued and intense decision making.

That alone makes data-driven decision support tools critical, Professor Cabrera said.

“Also, dairy farm systems are highly dynamic, with changing market conditions and prices, evolving policies and environmental restrictions, together with..variable climate conditions that determine performance.

“Furthermore, dairy farm systems are highly integrated with heavily interrelated components such as the dairy herd, soils, crops, weather, and management,” he said.

Under these premises, it is crucial for farmers to collect meaningful data records to help them optimise decision making and track their economic performance.

To address the challenge, Prof Cabrera said a number of research organisations, such as the University of Wisconsin Dairy Management program, were attempting to provide user-friendly tools to help fill the gap.

The University of Wisconsin has produced more than 45 computerised and customisable tools to help dairy farm managers track and make decisions around nutrition, reproduction, price risks and environments.

“These data-driven decision support tools are aimed to help dairy farmers improve their decision-making, environmental stewardship, and economic performance,” Prof Cabrera added.

“Dairy farmers and dairy farm advisers are using these decision support tools to make better more informed decision-making. Better decision-making is translated into improved performance, reduced environmental impact, and enhanced profitability.”

Taken from: ‘Invited review: Helping dairy farmers to improve economic performance utilizing data-driving decision support tools' by Victor Cabrera