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How Are Small Dairy Farms Benefiting From Technology in 2024?



Sustainability, efficiency and transparency are shaping the dairy industry and prompting an era of technological innovation.  It’s an exciting time for small farm operations as the sheer number of tech based assistance options makes adopting new practices increasingly accessible. If a small dairy farm can pinpoint the cause of their profit loss, there is likely a mechanism designed specifically to bring it up to par. And if not, there is software that can help uncover exactly where to streamline operations.


Maintaining a dairy farm comes with unique challenges. The fact that there is no off season for milking cows has wreaked its own kind of havoc on dairy families. In the last two decades the industry has come up against consumer scorn for everything from animal welfare, to methane emissions to the nutritional value of milk. Like the meat industry, milk production operates on sensitive time tables. A weak point in transportation or processing usually equals significant profit loss.  The nuanced dynamic has put many small dairy farms under strain or out of business.


Dairy Farms Making A Comeback

In the last two years, we've seen signs of an industry comeback. The desire for efficiency and supply chain sustainability seems to be encouraging small farms to make significant investments in tech. If herd health and profitability both increase by employing these innovations the gains far outweigh the initial costs and more small farms are realizing this.


The dairy industry knows that consumer perception drives the market. Many small farms are willing to meet this demand by using technology to inform consumers. Like so many other agricultural industries, traceability and industry transparency might be more valuable to consumers than low cost products on shelves.


Efficient information sharing between various points on the supply chain is playing a role in the health of the industry. Analytical software and communication platforms have made it easier for supply to match demand.


As technology makes it more possible to navigate these industry challenges it’s likely we’ll see a more stable dairy sector.


The Latest in Dairy Farm Technology

Innovations in milk production, barn health analytics and grass based production are reducing operational costs as well as strain on land, animals and the families who care for them. Here are a few of the newest technologies and the ways they are bolstering the dairy industry.


Barn Health

Several tech companies offer data collection software that enables farmers to monitor behavior trends among their herd and even individual cows. Data can then be used for precision based nutrition distribution. These types of technologies go so far as to factor in the age of an animal, estimate its growth projection, and detect deficiencies or illness. 


The benefits to farmers include far less wasted feed and supplements. They are able to tweak feeding schedules to match behavior patterns which in turn supports cow resting, or milk producing, times. Ventilation sensors, lighting systems and cooling technology are reducing stress on animals. And, many of these innovations are helping farmers detect disease quicker which reduces the use of antibiotics and stops the spread of illness faster.


Milk Production

Believe it or not, cows can now choose when they want to be milked thanks to robotic technology. This technology is also used in sanitation, utter identification, and precision cup attachment.


For small dairy farms, continuous operation equals profitability. Automation and robotics used to replace human labor means that there is no stop to production or animal care. Some dairy operations are seeing an increase in milk production among their herd and credit it to a less stressful milking experience.


Quality Control


For dairy farms interested in transparency, sensors are now available to detect antibiotic residue. Milk testing software gives detailed information about the molecular makeup of a batch. And, nanosecond pulsed electric fields exist to kill off microorganisms that create spoilage, preserving milk for longer.


Consumers can trace the origin of their milk and also see accurate information about the fat, protein and sugar content before making a purchase. These technologies are fostering greater trust between the dairy industry and consumers.


Environmental Sustainability

Demand for grass based production and reducing methane emissions are factors pushing the dairy industry toward sustainable options that benefit the cows and their environment. Technology is playing a role here in the form of virtual fences that use GPS chips or sensors which allow for easier grazing rotation. And many barns have adopted innovations that help them use water more efficiently.


The list of technological innovations continues to grow.  Perhaps most promising are the innovations that allow for better communication up and down the supply chain. It’s making the industry flexible and giving small farms options for adapting quicker to ever fluctuating demands.


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