D4Dairy Closing Meeting at BOKU in Vienna
by Kristina Linke (comments: 0)
D4Dairy project successfully completed
After a project duration of four years, the COMET project D4Dairy, under the leadership of Rinderzucht AUSTRIA, has now come to an end. As a result, a closing meeting was held at the end of September at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences in Vienna to look back on the goals achieved and the successful cooperation. Consortium leader Dr. Christa Egger-Danner, ZuchtData EDV-Dienstleistungen GmbH, was pleased to welcome numerous representatives of the economic and scientific partners participating in the project. Within the framework of keynote speeches and subsequent short presentations, the results of the respective interdisciplinary project fields (basics for data integration, new approaches for predicting and detecting diseases, feeding and environment, improving animal health) were presented. Highly recognised experts from the internationally competitive network established within D4Dairy, consisting of domestic and foreign universities, competence centres, research institutions and companies along the milk value chain, as well as national and international technology providers, were invited to speak. The meeting thus also offered participants the opportunity to exchange experiences with representatives of many different organisations relevant to the dairy sector.
The D4Dairy project aimed to further develop digitally supported management for dairy farms that contributes to a further improvement in animal health, animal welfare and product quality through data-supported, networked information systems using modern data analysis methods. The project title D4Dairy stands for the 4 D`s: Digitalisation, Data integration, Detection and Decision support in Dairying.
"Digitalisation through new technologies, robots and sensors is advancing more and more in our barns," emphasises Rinderzucht Austria chairman Stefan Lindner. "The aim of the project is to use the many different data for the benefit of the farmers on the farms, to network the data and to provide an attractive aid for herd management and breeding. A survey in D4Dairy showed the great confidence of the farmers in data processing by farmers organisations." In the meantime, a lot has been implemented in practice: the automatic data exchange between the Cattle Data Network (RDV) and the sensor data from smaXtec and Lely as well as the Rosenau feed laboratory or the milk laboratories. The D4Dairy data exchange platform enables anonymised data to be merged and made available for specific research questions. A data exchange concept regulates the exchange and use of data and ensures data protection.
In total, more than 40 business and scientific partners participated in the project. More than 300 farmers were recruited to participate in pilot studies.
Digitalisation to improve animal health
New technologies are revolutionising the dairy industry, and the large amounts of data generated by monitoring - keyword Big Data - promise completely new insights into animal health. Digitisation represents both a great opportunity and a great challenge for farming.
Exemplary for the many scientists involved in the project, Peter Klimek from the Complexity Science Hub sums it up: "I don't think there is any other species, except cattle, where there is so much different data. I see great potential for the future that you can get even more out of digitisation and bringing all this data together and offer farm-specific assistance in terms of early detection and prevention of animal diseases." Data from dairy cattle farming from different origins are networked in the best possible way and made available to farms with sophisticated reports as practice-relevant information for health care and breeding. A closer look at the infrared spectrum of the milk, which is routinely examined at every milk performance test to determine the milk constituents, showed the benefits for early detection of disorders in the health and metabolic condition of dairy cows. By providing early indications of problems, examination and treatment can be initiated before more severe symptoms and pain occur. The use of sensor data for early detection of disease has also been investigated and behavioural changes in lame cows, such as shorter feeding times and longer rest periods, could be detected.
These new findings will be translated into alerts for early detection of possible health problems, so that the farmer will receive an alert via an app or SMS. The risk of disease can be predicted with BigData approaches, taking into account a wide range of environmental factors and animal-specific predispositions. The evaluation of the various risk factors gives indications of where to start so that diseases can be avoided or reduced.
Benchmarking, as developed for claw health in the project, is available in the LKV Herd Manager and allows comparison with other farms and the estimation of potential for improvement.
Monitoring of the health status of the herd by means of the weekly tank milk samples taken by the dairy was also developed in the project and Berglandmilch already offers its farmers the service of benchmarking and feedback on parameters of feeding and udder health via SMS.
Sustainable improvement of animal health through breeding
A major goal of cattle breeding is to breed for healthy animals. Despite advances in genome selection, electronic collection of veterinary diagnoses for 15 years and their use in breeding, phenotypes (data) are the limiting factor in breeding for improved animal health and welfare. The accumulation of "real-time" data on activity, rumination or more precise information on animal health from milk offers new possibilities in breeding. From this new data, complex algorithms were used to derive new traits to describe animal health and welfare, and their use in breeding was analysed. "Processing the data for routine use is time-consuming, but their use for breeding is promising," says Birgit Fürst-Waltl from the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences. Within the framework of the project, basic principles for the development of a metabolic index and a claw health breeding value were elaborated..
Contribution to antibiotic reduction
"D4Dairy contributed to three out of five goals of the Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance", explained Prof. Annemarie Käsbohrer, Vetmeduni Vienna.
In cooperation with six dairy laboratories, the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) test for udder infections was harmonised and a guideline was created. An interface to the Cattle Data Network (RDV) was set up, enabling the laboratories to transmit the results of the AMR in addition to the already existing automatic transmission of the results of the bacteriological examination. This makes it possible to present the results in new reports for herd management, which can support farmers and veterinarians in their decision-making. Furthermore, work is being done on the development of a decision support tool for drying-off for a more targeted use of antimicrobials. The results show that it is possible to reduce the use of antimicrobials by using the diverse relevant information without accepting more udder diseases. A farm- and animal-related implementation in practice is in preparation. In addition, a guideline on the handling of waste milk was developed and the resistance situation in calves on Austrian farms was investigated.
Feeding - an important factor for animal health
In the field of feeding, the occurrence of mycotoxins - toxins produced by fungi - in Austrian feed and their influence on the rumen microbiome was investigated. The studies showed that warmer temperatures are a risk factor for the occurrence of mycotoxins, so climate change is expected to increase their importance. Concentrate feed efficiency, work processes in the feeding area and the effects of barn climate on behaviour and productivity were also investigated as part of the project.
The project results were presented in scientific publications and international symposia, as well as in agricultural journals, webinars and events for farmers.
As consortium leader, Christa Egger-Danner sums up the project: "The potential of digitalisation and automation could only be realised with data networking and the evaluation tools based on it. Cooperation and networking between the partners involved along the milk value chain is crucial. The D4Dairy project was another important step in this direction. Successful cooperation is built on mutual trust. In the D4Dairy project, new contacts were made through the joint research work and new trusting cooperations were established for routine with the aim of using the new technological possibilities to improve animal health and welfare in the cattle industry.