Precision technologies to improve dairy grazing systems

B. J. Heins, Glenda M Pereira, Kirsten T Moser

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Pasture-based dairy herds continue to grow around the world as demand increases for sustainable farming practices. Grazing dairy farmers may benefit from the utilization of precision dairy technologies because these technologies have the potential to improve animal welfare, increase farm efficiency, and reduce costs. Precision dairy technologies have provided novel information about activity, rumination, and grazing behavior of various breeds in pasture-based systems. Previous research with wearable technologies has indicated that rumination, eating, and no activity have moderate to high correlations (r = 0.65 to 0.88) with visual observation; however, activity may be difficult to record in grazing herds. However, many grazing dairy farmers around the world are using activity monitors with generally positive success. Grazing is a complex behavior to define because cows may walk to an area and stop to eat or continuously walk and take bites of grass from the pasture. Wearable technologies can detect whether a cow is grazing with reasonable accuracy. However, the challenge is to determine pasture intake as bite rate and bite size because these can vary as the pasture is grazed to a low residual height. Nevertheless, grazing behavior data collected with wearable technologies was highly correlated (r = 0.92 to 0.95) with visual observations. Grazing is a behavior that should continue to be explored, especially with precision dairy technologies. As healthy and productive pastures are integral to grazing systems, accurate forage biomass measurements can improve efficiency and production of pastured dairy cows. However, few farms use technology to determine forage availability. Therefore, using dairy technologies to monitor forage dry matter from pasture may provide a potential benefit for grazing-based dairy farms. Current satellite technology with the normalized difference vegetation index and electronic rising plate meters may provide new technologies for farms to monitor forage biomass and fine-tune grazing within pastures. In the future, pasture-based dairy farms may rely on virtual fencing, drones to detect animal health issues and forage availability, and autonomous vehicles to move cattle and to detect weeds on pasture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)318-323
Number of pages6
JournalJDS Communications
Volume4
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Review

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