Technological innovations shed light on dairy pasture productivity

Related tags Dairy farmers Dairy Cattle Milk

An increasing number of dairy farmers are turning towards tailored
technology-based solutions to help improve their farming techniques
and productivity levels, as Tom Armitage reports.

ACS Online, an associate of Sun Microsystems, has developed a series of modules designed to assist dairy farmers with their financial and livestock management.

The computer application also incorporates a tailored sustainable pasture management system (SPS), used to determine dairy farm productivity by capturing and analysing data from pastures.

The technology is able to establish both the volume of grass on each pasture and the rate at which it is being consumed by dairy cattle, which allows dairy farmers to calculate grazing cycles and feed budgeting, in addition to assisting them with the planning of fertiliser applications.

The software has already been rolled out across South Africa. According to Sidney Badier, chief information officer of ACS Online, the system "has been live and available for almost two months now and already over 70 customers countrywide are successfully using it."

Dairy farmers are able to capture their pasture data and have the instant capacity to generate online graphs and reports using Internet-connected PCs or handheld GPRS-enabled devices.

"Our customer base is spread throughout the country with many stakeholders in areas that have very poor telecommunication infrastructure,"​ added Badier.

He also noted that "the ability to capitalise on wireless communication delivers functionality that otherwise would not be available to them."

The software system has the added bonus of allowing data to be collected even when offline, which is then synchronised when the system is resumed.

ACS Consulting claims that the system will soon be available for export to Australia and New Zealand, which both have substantial pastoral-orientated, dairy farming industries.

But New Zealand dairy co-operative Fonterra may also enter the pasture technology arena, announcing recently that its so-called 'pastures from space' programme is nearing completion. The company is currently in a final testing phase of the system at three sites across New Zealand.

Fonterra's rival system - estimated to have 90 per cent accuracy - relies on a series of satellites which orbit the earth at 700km and can estimate the amount of feed available in individual paddocks.

Speaking to​, Mark Leslie of Fonterra commented: "With almost all New Zealand dairy production being pasture-based, good information on grass growth is vital for farmers."

Although the company has no immediate plans to launch the solution commercially, dairy farmers will soon have the opportunity to download data from a satellite detailing their farm's grass growth next milking season, via New Zealand dairy industry research agency, Dairy Insight.

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