Dairy business leaders’ perception of what consumers expect of Canadian farmers is driving information technology innovation in the sector. 
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New dairy innovations featured at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show
Sjenk Van Soelen of DeLaval explained the company's new behaviour analysis tool for monitoring in-barn cow behaviour and herd health. Photo: Stew Slater

Dairy business leaders’ perception of what consumers expect of Canadian farmers is driving information technology innovation in the sector.

The DeLaval dairy equipment company used the 2023 Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show to officially launch in Canada and the U.S. its DeLaval Plus Behavior Analysis tool for monitoring in-barn cow behaviour and herd health. The company’s North American Business Development Manager was at the show to explain the system’s benefits over existing dairy data-gathering products.

Sjenk Van Soelen said DeLaval Plus builds on the strengths of the company’s Herd Navigator software partly by adding a suite of cow behaviour monitoring to the existing health and reproductive parameters tracked through milk samples.

But the most significant enhancement, he suggests, is the “real-time” nature of DeLaval Plus. The newly-developed eartags send updates to the barn computer, and on to the DeLaval Plus cloud, every 2.2 seconds. This compares to a current industry standard of every 15 minutes – and this is typically not cloud-based but only to the barn computer.

With the new eartags, “you can walk to the cow in the barn in real time with your phone and be within 10 millimetres of the cow. She hasn’t walked away and gone off to another pen by the time you get there,” Van Soelen said.

A big reason for striving – through four years of trialling and refining the system – for real-time access is being able to “show the public that we care about our animals,” he told Farmtario. Farms may be getting larger and larger, with more animals in bigger barns, but consumers want to know that if a cow is sick or ready for calving, the farmer is still able to find her and provide care within minutes.

Also launching a new artificial intelligence-themed product at the 2023 COFS was the Ontario-based CATTLEytics start-up, headed up by veterinarian Dr. Shari van de Pol. Their “Moo To Do” task management software for barn employees is already in use at Summitholm Holsteins near Hamilton but their newest offering is a cattle treatment record-keeping program that allows employees to accurately identify and follow through on veterinarian-prescribed treatment protocols.

Atop the CATTLEytics display in the Farm Show’s Dairy Innovation Centre is the following slogan: “I can now provide the same individualized care to my thousand cows as my grandparents did for their fifteen” – another nod to the consumers’ desire to know that timely animal care doesn’t suffer as farms get larger.

Across the alley from CATTLEytics, there was something new about the large display for dairy genetics supplier EastGen. Perhaps surprisingly to many long-time dairy visitors, for the first time there were no photos of bulls promoting perfect matches for their herd’s cows. There were, however, several EastGen staffers offering to take visitors through a “Put Genomics to Work” exercise in which they assessed the traits of four heifers in a pen and then compared their thoughts to the animals’ actual genomic results.

And there were signs promoting the Methane Efficiency index for bulls and for cows enrolled in EastGen’s Elevate genetic testing program.

The absence of bull-promoting photos, suggested Director of Sales Jamie Howard, speaks to a years-in-the-making transition of the company from a semen provider to a genetics solutions provider.

And the promotion of the Methane Efficiency index – which launched in early 2023 but which Howard admits has seen slow growth as farmers come to terms with how to prioritize it within their breeding programs – is, again, a nod to consumer perceptions.

“Even though we believe cows have been beaten up more than they deserve considering the percentage of (greenhouse gas) emissions tied to the agriculture sector that actually come from cows,” Howard told Farmtario, “we also firmly believe that a lot of little things (targeting decreasing emissions) can build up to a bigger thing.”

And if the dairy sector can put forward the perception to the public that it’s tackling emissions, that can only be positive.

Two more local dairies are getting out after another tough year.

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