Research supporting precision farming on a pasture grazing milk production system
Teagasc, Agricultural and Food Development Authority, Ireland
The use of automation can reduce manual tasks on farms and allow farmers to shift their focus from operational tasks to more economically beneficial, management and strategic tasks. But information obtained through precision farming technologies is only useful if it can be interpreted and utilised effectively by individual farmers. Real-time data can be used to monitor pasture, soil, weather, animals and output (e.g. milk) and the environment, and create reports that will identify optimal farm-management decisions. Pasture-based systems are complex and the use of precision technologies can assist in optimising productivity. A recent Irish study has indicated that profit per hectare is increased by €173 per each additional tonne of grass utilised. But in order to achieve this, grassland measurements must be conducted and recorded. A web-based decision support tool (PastureBaseIreland, PBI) uses ICT technologies to provide an integrated framework that enables grassland farmers to operate at maximum efficiency. Animal health and welfare is considered an important component of sustainable farming. One of the main constraints in addressing a health/ welfare issue is the inability of the dairy farmer to identify the problem sufficiently early, and this can now be assisted by technological devices such as accelerometers or monitors to measure head movement, etc. Precision technologies are also important in the production of quality milk. Information from digital technologies on-farm can be integrated with data derived from routine analytical testing, (e.g. fat, protein and SCC) and this information may be used for subsequent decision making in the dairy supply chain. This can promote an approach of proactive maintenance and optimisation of production through improved predictability and control of manufacturing processes. Thus, the competitiveness and profitability of an agricultural industry can be increased through the use of precision farming technologies and a technology platform that integrates them into operational management.
Dr Bernadette O’Brien – Principal Research Scientist, Teagasc Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Moorepark. In her current role at Teagasc, much of Bernadette’s work includes innovative and sustainable systems combining automatic milking and precision grazing; investigation of precision grazing management; labour efficiency with respect to labour input and task profiles; as well as exploring new technology on dairy farms. Bernadette’s work also includes a focus on residues in milk, which is key to meeting the demand for premium Irish dairy products in new and existing markets internationally; she is also a member of the IDF (International Dairy Federation) Working Group on residues and chemical contaminants in milk. Bernadette has been successful in securing significant EU and National research funding, as lead and co-investigator for research initiatives examining the use of precision technologies. Bernadette has published widely (up to 100 peer reviewed papers), as well as book chapters and conference proceedings. Bernadette has also co-supervised the research of many PhD students and also fulfills a role in lecturing to National University of Ireland (Cork and Dublin) students as well as providing training and involvement on workshops to groups.