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Dairy Farm App Could Revolutionize The Industry

William Graf/University of Wisconsin

Wisconsin News Connection ishere.

MADISON, Wis. - Dairy farms generate massive amounts of data every day - too much for a farmer to analyze alone. But a new app being developed at the UW-Madison Department of Dairy Sciences called Virtual Dairy Farm Brain aims to collate all that data in real time to help the farmer make better decisions.

The development team includes dairy scientists, agricultural economists and computer scientists, and is led by assistant professor Victor Cabrera. He says farmers use modern systems that each separately generate tons of information. "Farmers are inundated with information that many times is not being used effectively, and so we said 'What can we do to help in this situation?'" Cabrera relates. "'How can we take advantage of this large amount of information that's very valuable, that they are not taking full advantage of?'"

Cabrera's group right now is streaming data on about 4,000 cows in three Wisconsin herds. The researchers believe the methodology they're developing will apply to any farm. They hope to have the Virtual Dairy Farm Brain app in on-farm tests before the end of the year. Today's dairy farmer has daily reports on feed efficiency - pounds of milk produced per pound of feed consumed, written notes on tanker weight when the milk is transported, reports texted from milk buyers, and many other data sources.

Cabrera says it's too much data for one person to digest. "They are not able to grasp it all in their head, and so many times they do these decisions on silos - on a specific thing - trusting and hoping that it's not going to affect the rest, but indeed it does affect all the rest of the systems," he points out. Cabrera says the final step in developing the Virtual Dairy Farm Brain will be to apply what researchers have learned to create intuitive cloud-based, decision-support tools for the app to allow farmers to use real-time data from their farms to make smart management decisions.

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