High-tech neighbors in the north

Hoard's Dairyman: 

High-tech neighbors in the north

Date: 
Wed, 03/17/2010

A couple weeks ago we had the pleasure of visiting some impressive Ontario dairies during the First North American Conference on Precision Dairy Management. Our first stop of the day was to Summitholme Holsteins in Lynden, Ontario. The farm is owned by brothers Carl and Dave Loewith, and Carl’s son, Ben Loewith. Driving onto the farm you’d see that it was a well-run free stall and parlor operation. On closer inspection you will find several processes within the farm that have been automated to save labor and give the operator more information to be used as management tools. We started in the parlor where Ben Loewith showed us their milk recording system. The system records conductivity (mastitis detection), activity monitoring (heat detection), milk weights, and statistics on how the parlor is flowing to evaluate milker performance. It generates lists of cows that may need attention. Ben Loewith says they still have found ways to rely on simple technologies to help them monitor cows closely in a large herd — without using a computer. They use a whiteboard with several columns labeled with days of the month. When cows calve, their number is placed in three columns. This helps them remember the three days postcalving they test cows for ketosis. Stepping out of the parlor, you’ll find a feed mixing system that carefully lets feed mixers know how much feed of each ingredient is yet needed for the ration with a large electronic display.

It quickly became clear that Canadian farmers who can’t expand their herds because of quota restrictions may have the opportunity (and capitol) to take advantage of these technologies sooner than those in the U.S. who are still recovering from 2009. What do you think? Is high-tech dairy farming out of reach for U.S. farms?