As a dairy farmer, you would probably do anything in your power to ensure that your cows keep producing as abundant a supply of high-quality milk as possible. To assess whether this is the case, you have to measure each cow’s milk yield and quality at every milking. Then, you must record this information so you can compare it to the historical data you have collected for that cow, and only then can you look for patterns and assess whether each cow is producing at an optimal level. The sheer size and pace of most modern dairy farms makes this a virtually impossible task – unless you use an automated tool. Fortunately, dairy farmers today have access to an abundance of tools – such as electronic milk meters – that can take much of the guesswork out of milking.
A good milk meter accurately measures milk yield and quality (including the fat content and conductivity of the milk) at every milking, giving you the data you need to make informed decisions. Given how easily you can gain value from a milk meter, it is surprising that many dairy farmers are not yet taking advantage of such solutions. While pedometers and neck collars are pretty mainstream on dairy farms around the world, milk meters are less commonly used – a real missed opportunity.
In this series of articles, we will examine what you stand to gain by using a milk meter on your dairy farm (Part 1), show you some deeper levels of information you can deduce from the milk meter’s data (Part 2), and give you some tips about what to look out for when purchasing a milk meter solution for your farm (Part 3).
Warning: the information that follows could help you seriously boost your farm’s profits!!
Why accurate milk sensors are important
While cows are generally predictable and stable in their milk production, unexpected deviations from the norm do happen. This includes both deviations in volume and quality of milk produced and can include a lower than expected yield, the presence of blood or infection in the milk, or a reduction in fat content. In most cases, any deviation that is not related to the usual lactation cycle fluctuations indicates that there is a problem with the cow. A farmer who already knows the normal yield and expected milk quality of each cow as it enters the parlor is at a distinct advantage. He can instantly spot any problems with a specific cow and take prompt action to restore maximum productivity.
Afifarm’s farm management solution, used in conjunction with Afimilk’s MPC Milk Meter, allows you to gather, record, and store accurate and detailed information about each cow at every milking so you can make better decisions and ensure you always get the maximum from your cows.
Here is a summary of some of the data you have ready access to when deploying Afimilk’s solution:
Cow identification – Afimilk’s MPC milk meter integrates seamlessly with your tagging system as well as with the Afimilk central command software, where you can view all the metrics as needed. As soon as a cow enters the milking stall, Afimilk’s MPC retrieves its ID from the collar or leg tag. This means that no matter which stall the cow is standing in for that milking, you will be able to compare its data to that of all the previous days, thus making it easier for you to establish norms and benchmarks, and detect deviations.
Lactation status – Cows are not expected to produce the same quantity and quality of milk throughout their lactation cycle. In order to evaluate whether a cow is producing the right amount based on the expectations for her lactation stage, you need to know exactly where they are in their lactation cycle at each milking. Afimilk stores this data for each cow, making it much easier to evaluate when there is an actual problem.
Expected yield – Every cow’s yield is individual to them, therefore it is of no value to compare one cow’s yield to a totally different cow. Afimilk’s MPC, used in conjunction with the Afifarm software, records detailed yield information for each cow so you can easily view a cow’s average output (over the past ten days) and compare this to their personal expected productivity metrics.
Expected conductivity – The salt content of milk can be used as an indicator of its conductivity. A principal advantage of Afimilk’s ICAR approved MPC milk meter, as compared to other similar solutions, is its ability to accurately measure milk conductivity. As small changes in conductivity can indicate sickness or other problems, the ability to accurately track this metric is a powerful tool in the hands of the farmer.
When good is not good enough
When it comes to the world of milk meters, there are many options but not all solutions are equal. A simple milk indicator, for example, will calculate how much milk a cow produces at each milking but without being able to compare these metrics across the lifecycle of the cow, the usefulness of the data is limited. One of the advantages of using Afimilk with the MPC is that the information you can access about each cow is so comprehensive, allowing you to drill down and gain an in-depth understanding of what is going on. You can read more about what you can learn from the milk meter data in Part Two of this series. Most importantly, when making decisions about which milk sensor technology to purchase, consider your overall needs and goals and ensure that the solution you choose can support your long-term goals.
Making better decisions
The success of any farm is based on making good decisions. A wave of digitization across nearly every industry is rapidly changing the way businesses are run. Instead of relying solely on experience and intuition (as was done in the past), business owners today – and this includes dairy farmers – have access to solid data that makes their decisions more informed and their chances of success much higher. The Afimilk MPC used alongside Afifarm’s farm management solution provides an abundance of historic and current information about each cow. It is this level of detail that will help you take your management decisions into a higher league so you can truly maximize your productivity and profits.