D4Dairy: Research from practice for practice - thanks to the more than 300 participating farms

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"Basic research is hard work and it takes a lot of effort to come up with results that can be used in practice. The working conditions on the farm are characterised by market pressure, cost pressure and work peaks, and we are therefore very grateful that there are experts at the scientific level who are committed to the further development of cattle farming, both in the technical field and in the field of animal welfare for local farmers. With over 300 participating farms and more than 40 economic and scientific partners, D4Dairy contributes to keeping domestic cattle breeding in the hands of farmers in the future. This means that we farmers can shape and decide the future of cattle breeding ourselves. Thank you to the scientists, the staff and the participating farmers for the good cooperation and the spirit of innovation in the sense of further development of the entire cattle industry," said Stefan Lindner in his opening statement.

"-Wissenschaft schafft Wissen- Science creates knowledge. That is exactly what is being done in the D4Dairy project. The generation of knowledge is the basis for further development and is of great importance for the cattle industry and cattle breeding, as it is confronted with high social demands," said Leopold Buchegger, chairman of NÖ Genetik Cattle Breeders' Association.

New technologies are about to revolutionise the dairy industry. In addition to breeding achievements in genomics, information and communication technologies (e.g. Internet of Things, sensor technology) are also finding their way into modern cowsheds. Instead of point measurements, sensors record the well-being of the animals in real time or stream current barn conditions. The large amounts of data generated by monitoring ("big data") promise completely new insights into animal health. Digitisation represents a great opportunity, but also a great challenge for farming.

Within the framework of the D4Dairy project, information events for farmers were organised by the Austrian milk recording organisations and RIN-DERZUCHT AUSTRIA in cooperation with the umbrella organisation for sustainable animal husbandry in Austria (NTÖ), which took place in Bergland (Lower Austria), Ansfelden (Upper Austria) and Online. Many interested farmers accepted the invitation.

In various presentations, expert speakers showed how the technological developments in farming are connected and how these possibilities can be used in D4Dairy for the benefit of farmers and the entire sector.

Dr. Christa Egger-Danner, consortium leader of D4Dairy and Dr. Kristina Linke from Zucht-Data EDV-Dienstleistungen GmbH gave an overview of the project. Prof. Dr. Peter Klimek, Scientist of the Year 2021, and Caspar Matzhold from the Complexity Science Hub and the Medical University of Vienna highlighted the potential of applying new Big Data methods to the extensive data set of the cattle industry for early detection and development of preventive models for diseases. "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 we can get even more out of digitalisation and the consolidation of all this data and offer farm-specific assistance with regard to the early detection and prevention of animal diseases," Klimek emphasises. The goal of the project is the best possible networking of data from dairy farming from different sources, as well as the development of optimised digital management tools for dairy farms. Through data networking, advanced evaluation methods are to be used to create better practice-relevant information for health care but also for breeding.

Veterinarian Dr. Walter Obritzhauser and Dr. Clair Firth from the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna provided information on the reduction of antibiotic use through targeted drying-off. The goals are the development of a drying-off strategy adapted to individual farm conditions, the reduction of antibiotic use without impairing udder health, and the development of a "decision support tool" for the farm-specific implementation of the drying-off strategy. Friedrich Naderlinger, Master's student at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna, illustrated the effects of the transition to automatic milking systems (AMS) for farms. Dr. Katharina Schodl of the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna/ZuchtData and Mag.med.vet. Lena Lemmens of the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna presented how sensor data can be used for disease detection. DI Lisa Maria Rienesl, PhD student at the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences Vienna, explained the usefulness of the infrared spectrum of milk for predicting the health and metabolic status of dairy cows, which influences the composition of the milk. The MIR method quantifies milk constituents such as fat, protein, urea and lactose. Rienesl emphasises that MIR can do a lot, but not everything. There is a lot behind the MIR spectra and one can derive a lot of information from it, but the technology still has its limits.

Awarding of farm tables to the innovative D4Dairy project farms

"D4Dairy offers the opportunity for practice, science and consultancy to work together on further developments in cattle farming. The prerequisite for this was the participation of innovative D4Dairy pilot farms, through which a unique data set could be generated. This now makes it possible to work on important questions and further developments," emphasises Stefan Lindner, chairman of RINDERZUCHT AUSTRIA. "The benefits will go far beyond the project. It takes time to develop practical applications. So it will be a longer process."

As a thank-you for the good cooperation and as a sign of appreciation for the commitment shown, the participating farms were awarded personalised farm tables during the D4Dairy information events.

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