Data needs to work for your business
AUSTRALIAN DAIRY farmers are in a unique position to influence scientific research, according to a visiting US animal research specialist.
Jeffrey Bewley – an Assistant Professor with the University of Kentucky’s Animal and Food Sciences Department – spoke at the recent DairySA Innovation Day, held in Mt Gambier, SA, last onth.
More than 200 dairy farmers and service providers on the day heard about the latest developments in precision agriculture technology and its impact on farm decision making.
Jeffrey set the tone by challenging farmers to reimagine how they dairy. But he was quick to point out that the term ‘Big Data’ can be a little confusing.
“Big Data provides us with a lot of opportunities for the dairy industry,” he said.
“However the term ‘Big Data’ itself is a little bit confusing but basically it means using new sources of data - with new ways of analysing and visualising it - to help us make better business decisions,” he said.
“We already have a lot of data on our dairy farms but there are now so many new technologies coming out that are providing fresh sources of information that will enable us to ‘dig in’ more to areas such as animal health and reproduction,” he added.
“There are huge opportunities in every part of the world for using the kind of data that we have available to us. It is the key to changing how we dairy – since we’re working with essentially the same animals and people no matter where we are in the world,” he said.
According to Jeff, these technologies should also have the twofold effect of improving the bottom line. However, there is often a gap between what is supposed to happen with technology and what actually happens on farm.
Transferring this information into tangible products for use by dairy farmers is challenging and often requires funding commitment from a third party.
Jeff believes Australian dairy producers are in the enviable position of being able to make decisions about what research will be undertaken for the ultimate benefit at the farm level.
“You guys are in a unique position with the Dairy Australia program, having the ability to make the decisions about what research gets accomplished, something that we lack in the US.
“In the US we sometimes see a gap between what research is being done and the things that can really help at the farm level – I’m envious of the system you have,” he said.
Jeff’s final take home message was simple:
1) The key to technology is to use data to make better decisions
2) The most important thing is not the gadget itself, but how the information is used
3) Be clear about how the integrated data will assist in reaching business and operational goals
4) Avoid using data for data’s sake
“Information by itself is fairly useless,” he said.
“We need a plan for how we intend to use the information, so that it meets our goals and makes sense from an economic perspective as well.”
• Article reprinted with permission by DairySA.
Michael Black from Port MacDonnell, SA and Josh Clarke from Mingbool, SA at the DairySA Innovation Day.