Data needs to work for your busi­ness

Dairy News Australia - - AROUND THE REGIONS -

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.

Jeffrey Bew­ley

Michael Black from Port MacDon­nell, SA and Josh Clarke from Ming­bool, SA at the DairySA In­no­va­tion Day.

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