Healthy Heifer: A precision solution for dairy farmers
From Charlotte Gresham
Delivering on-site information about an individual animal’s genetics, nutrition, environment, activity and health, the novel technology will not only improve heifer health but also UK dairy farming sustainability. Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the rearing period and moving the sector closer, faster to its net zero goal.
Improving profitability and reducing the carbon footprint of the UK dairy industry
Currently, the average first calving (AFC) in the majority of British dairy farms is 26 months, missing a key target of 24 months. Some 15% of heifers fail to enter the milking herd with a further 19% culled during first lactation due to poor health or injury.
Led by Cambridge Animal Technologies in partnership with Agri-EPI Centre, the team’s goal is to achieve 95% reaching first lactation; halving losses and reducing AFC closer to 24 months.
Reducing the numbers of new heifers needed by 10% and the retention of healthier heifers will improve a herd’s overall longevity, productivity and profitability, whilst also delivering significant reductions in GHG emissions over the rearing period.
Data collection, analysis, integration and delivery
With these key industry resources, Healthy Heifer aims to optimise the rearing of heifer replacements by incorporating novel hardware and software solutions:
Integrating a wide range of data from various sources, including advanced sensing technology using smart ear tags and farm records to obtain the full picture of individual animal condition.
Developing a data analysis platform to continuously analyse the data sources to provide appropriate real-time, automated health and performance flags to optimise interventions.
Create a decision support system to optimise health and management protocols and quantify impact. This will be developed using expert advice from across the supply chain, including veterinary and animal science expertise.
Agri-EPI will project manage the project across our network of satellite farms. Our wide network of commercial dairy farms also includes the testbed for novel dairy farming technology at our South West Dairy Development Centre.
Healthy Heifer is funded as part of the ISCF TFP science and technology into practice: feasibility studies, part of the UK Government Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.