Worldwide an increasing number of dairy herds applies different types of sensor technologies to detect mastitis and other diseases. In a variety of different systems, enormous amounts of data are collected daily, at each milking. The development of new sensors and sophisticated algorithms is continuously growing. One of the reasons for this development is that automatic milking has improved work- life balance of many farmers and created more attractive work environments. Hence, farmers today have more information than ever about how their cows are doing 24/7. And indeed, the technologies can be a fantastic tool for early detection of mastitis or other diseases, for decision making on the individual cow here and now and for monitoring developments on herd level. In short, a great potential for udder health managements, with one big challenge: sensors bring value only to the farmer when he or she actively works with sensor output and turns the information into specific actions. However, experience shows that the usage of sensor information varies immensely among farmers and their advisors. How can and should we use all these data? Which data are the really important? For whom and what purpose? What are the most appropriate actions in terms of animal welfare, production, economy and prudent use of antibiotics?
To answer these questions, a strong collaboration between industry, farmers, their advisors and research institutions is warranted. The better we learn to turn the results from detection into meaningful action, the more value to the farmer in terms of better udder health, milk quality and more efficient and sustainable management.
Ilka Klaas is DVM and PhD from Free University of Berlin and University of Copenhagen. She is Dairy Development Director at DeLaval International, where she supports the whole organization with scientific knowledge, research and innovation. She is member of the Standing Committee of Animal Health and Welfare (SCAHW) of the IDF.
Text and picture: Ilka Klaas