As technology has improved the dairy industry’s ability to gather information, some producers become overwhelmed by numbers, figures and trends and consequently give up on making sense of any of it.
“It brings pain to my heart every time,” said Nate McDonald, Product Development Manager at BouMatic. “Everyone talks about ‘Data is great!’ And it is ... if you use it,” Matching the needs of the producer is the most important part of McDonald’s job, he said. That means finding the right tool to not only gather the data a producer needs but to make sure it is presented in a way that is useful. What that looks like varies depending on the person. “We can give you so much information on your parlor, it'll blow your mind,” he said. “We can tell you to the second how much milk she's giving, what conductivity it is. But if all that information just sits on a screen and you never look at it, what are you paying for?”
With so much technology available and so much information to gather, the question a producer should ask is not “What data can I gather in my operation?” The question to ask is “What data do I need?”
McDonald walks people through the process of determining how to improve their operations. He asks “What are three things that cost you the most money?” From there, they work through areas where some key pieces of information can guide better decisions or improve efficiency.
“We can say, hey, did you know that there are four cows you've had to reattach 10 times?” he said. “Because it will log that information. Just getting rid of those four cows can increase your efficiency and your worker retention exponentially.”
For producers who have not had much experience with advanced tools, a SmartConnect Controller is often a great place to start. SmartConnect can be incorporated into existing equipment and offers a view of parlor data from a web browser or smartphone. Producers can monitor milking routines, see the progression of the letdown, view kick-offs and the number of manual attaches and more.
This is not a tool that has to gather new information about parlor operations. For many, the value of SmartConnect is in how it presents that data and compares it to previous performance.
“In the SmartConnect, it's very plain and simple,” McDonald said. “We're not monitoring any milk weights of a cow or doing anything like that. We just want to know at a simple level if all the cows are on an even playing field. What's going on? Are our milkers having to put more units on? That kind of stuff.”
Some producers want more data to guide decisions. Even then, it remains important to get the right data and present it in the right way.
SmartDairy is the next step. While SmartConnect is focused on parlor operations, SmartDairy adds additional data that’s more specific to individual cows while still being compatible with existing equipment. SmartDairy manages pulsation, meters and detachers. It controls sort gates, monitors stall operations and more.
“So now we can start saying, ‘We'll let you know if an animal produces less or is a slower-milking cow,’” McDonald said. “That information will just go to that single program and tell you, ‘Hey, these are the cows that should be bred.’ or ‘Oh, it looks like I only want this many animals. I'm going to pick my top 40.’ So it gives you that kind of information while still giving you the parlor efficiency. It's a lot more information.
”With SmartDairy, McDonald still goes through the process of determining the best areas to improve operations with a producer. Additional data is valuable, and prioritizing that data and presenting it in an easy-to-access and easy-to-read format is key.
There is no one right way to handle a dairy operation, and BouMatic is committed to helping producers find the tools that are most helpful to them. McDonald said both areas of thought - the simple approach and the more data-driven approach- can be successful.
“Both of those people are really good cow people, and both of those farms will make money,” he said. “They don't do it the same way, and they shouldn't have to.”
“That’s what I like about what we're doing at BouMatic, it’s not leaving anyone behind.”