Ten Questions on Precision Dairy Management with
Two years ago in March 2010, in Toronto, we held the
First North American Conference on Precision Dairy
Jack Rodenburg was a driving force behind
this highly successful conference.
Jack has spoken on dairy management and design of
dairy cattle housing at many scientific and
technical conferences around the world.
Through his consulting business, Dairylogix,
in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, he has designed many
new and renovated robotic milking barns.
At a recent dairy housing design course for
dairy farmers, Jack took a few minutes away from
teaching to answer
1. Jack, in 2010, you said that Ontario was leading
North America in the adoption of robotic milking and
precision dairy management technology.
still the leader in adoption of precision management
in North America?
Much of what is happening in precision technology in
general is linked to robotic milking, and that is
driven by labour costs and lifestyle on family run
dairies. Industrial Ontario has high labour costs
and dairies are the ideal size for robotics. Ontario
Is still leading but other areas are catching up.
For example, pedometry has become a standard
technology across Canada, and the USA is starting to
go that way now as well.
2. What has changed in the technology in the last 2
Most of the technologies are getting better, and the
best ones are developing a stronger connection to
mainstream dairy equipment and service suppliers.
That makes them more accessible and acceptable to
farmers. Since development of new technology is all
in private hands, it is impossible to know what is
coming, but I have a sense that adoption is catching
up with development.
3. What forces are at play in dairying that are
leading dairy farmers to buy into precision
Higher labour costs is the main one, but other
things come into play as well. For example in
pedometry an aversion to needling and hormones is a
factor, and interest in having better management
information drives things like rumination monitoring
and in line milk analysis for health and
In the US better economic returns are making it
possible for farms to look at new technology
4. Is milk quota limiting adoption of technology?
Stability in the market helps because there is
reliable cash flow.
A lot is happening quicker in markets where
there are limits on increasing herd size, because
farms in these areas can only improve income by
increasing efficiency and productivity. In places
where it is not practical to build a 3000 cow dairy,
we need efficient family run operations and robotic
milking is a great tool for them. many other
precision technologies are equally valuable on large
farms, but when the alternative is to increase cash
flow through more economy of scale using traditional
tools there are more choices for new investment.
5. Robotic milking has been viewed as not economical
in larger herds.
Is that changing?
If "larger" means 300 to 600 cows, herds in that
size range are experiencing good results and good
returns from investment in robotic milking. These
herds especially appreciate the labour saving and
the reduced demands on management to deal with
employees. But if "large means herds over 1000 cows
the uptake there is slower, although I think it is
just a matter of time before that changes as well.
6. What is coming in the next 2-3 years?
More commercial players in robotic milking, and more
options to choose from in a more competitive
marketplace. I also expect better integration of
sensor data and better diagnostic capabilities made
possible by bringing together information from
different sources. For example, in diagnosing
mastitis the standard today is to give the herdowner
a set of really good data. What is coming is
integration of all that data into one predictive
value the farmer can use to make decisions.
This will help us especially in the cow
7. Is the field becoming more competitive or more
There is consolidation of technologies within the
bigger companies which provide market access,
service and support, but as these companies put
together their "packages" of precision technologies,
this will lead to more competition in the
your time consulting with producers who are changing
over to robotic milking –
8. Is there a certain type of farmer suited to
changing to robotic milking?
need someone who is highly aware and a good manager,
but willing to stand back and let the technology
This is not always the same type of person who was a
good manager with traditional technology.
9. What are their biggest needs?
Willingness to change feeding practices, a good barn
design, and perhaps a good technical understanding
of what they are working with, and of course the
industry support to give them this expertise.
What is the most exciting aspect of precision dairy
To me, it is our ability to refocus on the
individual cow. Grandpa was a good dairyman if he
understood and responded to the individual cow, but
without a lot of tools to work with he could only do
this for 25 or 30 cows. Dad was driven by economic
forces to learn to manage groups of cows in large
herds and he lost the focus on the individual
animals. Precision management technology allows us
to focus back on the individual cow, and I am
confident we can make her healthier, happier, more
productive and more profitable as a result.
Jack practices dairy barn design specializing in
robotic milking under the name Dairylogix.
His website is
-PDM Web editor
CONFERENCE PROCEEDINGS AVAILABLE ONLINE
Complete conference proceedings for the first North
American Conference on Precision Dairy Management
are now available free of charge on the
Precision Dairy Management website.
The Proceedings include 57 plenary and session
papers, as well as abstracts of posters and the
dairy farmer panel. The conference held in March,
2010, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, attracted leading
researchers, technologists, private industry, and
dairy farmers from across North America and 18
countries around the world to share the latest
research and experiences with precision dairy
farming and using precision technology.
Precision dairy management is automation using
sensor-based management tools that define animal
needs and robotic equipment that automatically
delivers individual cow management applications. In
the same way that mechanization and expansion have
improved productivity in the last 20 years,
precision technologies will drive dairy industry
progress in future. The conference brought together
presentations from world class research and
development in precision dairy farming in nutrition,
robotic milking, automation, dairy cattle health,
reproduction, mastitis control and milk quality,
calf feeding and management, housing and novel
technologies and has made a great contribution to
advancing applications of precision dairy farming.
Go to the Precision Dairy Management website
www.precisiondairy2010.com and click on
“Conference Proceedings” to access all
presentations. For anyone wanting to purchase a copy
of the Proceedings there is a limited number still
available using the downloadable form on the
Conference organizers have remodeled the Precision
Dairy Management website as a place to showcase new
and emerging precision dairy technologies. We will
be posting submitted articles, papers, media
releases and links to information about new
technologies on a regular basis. Contributions of
information or links may be submitted to
email@example.com. We will review it
for suitability and post all material that we feel
contributes in a positive fashion to knowledge and
understanding of precision technologies in the dairy
June 23, 2011
Precision Dairy Management Web Pages!
new communications forum for dairy precision
management via the internet was unveiled today.
The Precision Dairy
developed as an extension of the highly successful
North American Conference on Precision Dairy
Management that was held in March, 2010, will be a
source of news, new products, and the latest
research and developments in the area of precision
First North American Conference in 2010 brought
together key people in precision technology and
related aspects of dairy production from around the
world and it has served as a turning point for
acceptance of precision dairy technology as a
mainstream component of modern dairy farming in
There have been a lot of positive spin-off and
tangible benefits from that Conference in the form
of researchers being invited to be involved in joint
programs in other countries, companies expanding
their reach, and forming new linkages, and increased
awareness in the industry in general of the
potential that this technology has to offer.
Already we have seen cooperative efforts in milk
recording and genetic improvement, cow behaviour,
reproduction, cow welfare and renewed interest in
has been one of the world leaders in adoption of
precision dairy farming and robotic milking and we
believe it is very important to stay involved in
this rapidly changing technology, share our
experiences and use our position to advantage to
increase and improve the benefits of robotics and
precision technology on North American dairy farms.
This increased awareness and appetite for
information on new developments in this exciting
technology has led to the re-development of the
Precision Dairy Management website to be a
clearinghouse for the latest information from
research and industry product development.
Dairy Management is bringing about a new era in
dairy cattle management, where technology is being
used for individual cow monitoring and management
regardless of herd size, to achieve not only more
efficient production but also improved animal health
is very important that the excitement and collective
energy generated by the Conference be continued and
generate new ideas and new cooperative efforts to
benefit the dairy industry.
website is sponsored in part by the Progressive
Dairy Operators with editorial assistance from dairy
specialists of the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture
Food and Rural Affairs.
Web hosting is courtesy of CanWestDHI.
Check out the
Precision Dairy Management website at
November 8, 2010