New Scale Innovations for Dairies

Published on Tue, 04/18/2023 - 12:32pm

New Scale Innovations for Dairies.

 By Jaclyn Krymowski.

 Technology has helped dairy herds advance in many areas. Not only can we track individual animals to monitor their health, heat cycles and behavioral patterns, but we can also use technology to simplify ordinary tasks.

For large operations, checking animal weights can be a time-consuming and tedious task. There are also operations that would benefit from weight information, but maybe it has been labor or time prohibited. But thanks to technological advancements, it’s become more efficient and more accurate to accomplish.

This can be a boon for operations that group heifers by weight or get feeder calves ready to ship to market. It can also ensure that animals are at optimal weights for breeding, calving, and staying warm in cold weather.

On the animal level
There are opportunities to improve the way you manage the herd by tracking weights. Reviewing  daily gains can identify animals that are losing weight, maintaining weight, or increasing weight.

Routine, or even daily, weigh-ins for individuals can provide valuable insight in real-time. Of course, doing this with traditional scale systems takes time most operations don’t have. To resolve these issues, some companies have to bring new innovations to the table.

Precision Livestock Technologies is a new company that uses a blend of artificial intelligence and machine vision to monitor an animal’s feed intake and eating patterns. This can pinpoint outliers who are eating excessively, or not enough, and may need to be pulled to determine weights. This technology is geared towards feedlots, but could easily translate to dairies and heifer raisers.

ClicRTechnologies is another new player that provides technology using 3D imaging to capture weights.This imaging collects data and tracks that information over time so you can review the average daily gain of the animal.

Gallagher offers a basic scale head that reads weights. This data can provide immediate average daily gain and the overall rate of gain, which enables sorting, notes and more. This wireless technology is also portable, so eliminates the mess of cords.

Digital weight indicators specifically designed for animal weighing allow producers to process groups of animals. Additionally, the data can provide an average weight per animal or track rate of gain.

The farm impact
In the scope of overall farm management, scales are a valuable asset for tracking feed and commodities. For example,  mixer wagons equipped with electronic scale systems can keep track of ingredients and total rations.

Another asset to dairies is on-farm truck scales that verify feed weights, comparing the exact weights of incoming purchased feeds versus sold commodities leaving.

Additional benefits
Research agricultural economist Eric Njuki identifies four areas producers can evaluate to determine how resources can be better utilized in his bulletin, US Dairy Productivity Increased Faster in Large Farms and Across Southwestern States.

These are:
• Understanding economic components such as technological process (advancing equipment or genetic enhancement)
• Scale-and-mix efficiency (scale of operations)
• Technical efficiency (positively using materials and services at their disposal) and
• Environmental effects which provide a foundation to productive growth
This approach also means looking at the options available to advance the operation or farm with technology so it continues to grow and be productive. Animals can also succeed better if the manager or operator knows what advancements to make.
Digital scales are an improvement over conventional mechanical-style livestock scales. The digital capabilities also provide data faster and make it easier to manage.
The ability to receive data instantly means decisions can be made to correct small issues before they snowball.
As an example, ClicRTechnologies lists their benefits as: reducing manpower, reducing animal stress, and keeping track of historical data.
Having a system that obtains information and stores it can help the operation better-set goals and also know how an animal or group has progressed.

Moving forward
Especially over the past decade, technology has proven it has vast potential to improve dairy efficiency and reduce the need for physical labor.

Developing scale technology is just one piece to this ongoing story of agriculture and the future. Farmers have only begun to see at the farm level what the ability to know data in real time can do.