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Virginia Cooperative Extension - Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Adapting to change and new technologies

Dairy Pipeline: April 2005

Raymond L. Nebel
Dairy Extension Coordinator
Reproductive Management Scientist
(540) 231-4432 email:

Changing technologies are nothing new to the dairy industry. Dairy farming is one of the most intensive technology intergraded farming system in the world of production agriculture. The market generally sorts out which technologies offer a competitive advantage and which do not. Very few technologies are appropriate for every farm. The issue for any single dairy producer is if and when to adopt a new technology. Since no dairy producer will adopt every new technology and no new technology will work on every farm, the questions are how will producers decide which technologies to adopt and when? Since microcomputers appeared in the early 1980's their use has greatly changed the way we work, think and communicate. Computers had many early applications in dairy management such as computerized feeding systems, ration balancing, electronic access to production records, automatic milk recording, electronic heat detection systems and accounting packages. However, computers have been accepted as a management and productivity tool much more rapidly in the non-agricultural sector than in the agricultural sector. Development of artificial intelligence has been the recent computer technology field that includes expert systems, machine learning, speech recognition, computer vision and robotics. The Internet has opened the world through the portal of the connected computer. The world is a much smaller place because of the advancements in information technologies available at one's fingertips with the use of the Internet. Requirements for the profitable adoption of a new technology! Since no farm will adopt every new technology and no new technology fits every farm, what should a dairy producer consider when deciding what to do? 1. Efficacy: Does the technology really work under conditions similar to what is on the farm? Ideally, this should include both controlled research studies (usually conducted at a major University) and an evaluation of the technology under practical conditions. 2. Management: Can management adjust to new methods or change of procedures so that the farm can reap benefits? Every new technology requires new skills, knowledge, and focus of thinking. 3. Initial Investment: What are the start-up costs? Do changes in facilities need to be made to adopt the new technology? Can the technology be phased in on a small scale to evaluate its value on your farm? If the new technology does not work for you, what is the downside risk? 4. Labor: What changes in labor will the new technology require, including employee training? 5. Feelings: What are your own psychological/cultural feelings and beliefs about the technology? Remember that many times the obstacle preventing adoption of a profitable technology is not the practical issue, but an emotional one. Today the one constant appears to be change! Do you use Timed Breeding Protocols such as PreSynch-Ovsynch to pre-determine the start of the breeding cycle. Will you use ultrasound for early pregnancy determination, or will sex sorted semen be a part of your heifer AI program?

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