A majority of dairy farmers in Africa perform badly due to poor record keeping and information management.
Managing records properly is a crucial aspect in carrying out Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). With the growth of ICT in the agricultural sector, farmers can now easily monitor the general performance of their dairy herds, generally referred to as Cowsignals.
There are several ICT innovations available in the market that can help dairy entrepreneurs to track their progress in real-time and keep proper records.
Dairy farmers who keep manual records may not benefit so much from them, as they easily lose them. Analysis and generation of reports is difficult and may not be as accurate, due to the bulky manual records.
These challenges in record management can result in a loss-making venture fuelled by low productivity, poor breeding, feeding and planning.
The use of ICT makes it easier for the dairy farmer to access credit because of the accuracy of the information collected.
Dairy Herd Management Systems have been used in Kenya by large and small-scale dairy farmers for over four years now.
They can be installed in any android smart phone and allow capture of all the Cowsignals data from everywhere, including the field.
Apps such as the Smartcow App, a cloud-based dairy management system, which allows farmers to register their herd details, monitor the daily activities and manage the information. It monitors daily production, weight records, milk sales, feeding, calf growth, expenses, and so on, and generates several reports that are significant in decision making.
The app sends alerts and notifications for activities that are due such as breeding dates, heat checks, pregnancy confirmation, drying, steaming, calving and health dates such as next de-worming, next vaccinations, production records, calf growth records, feeding records, inventory control records and profit and loss accounts.
Dairy ICT innovations can also be integrated into digital weighing scales to enable automatic weight recording from Bluetooth-enabled weighing scales.
The scales then send the data directly to the owner. Good ICT innovations will also have platforms that allow farmers to apply for dairy loans directly from the app, access and search for vets by location and services, purchase inputs from vendors at discounted rates, and to chat with experts, dairy consultants and other farmers.
The mobile Apps give statistics of the farm’s performance within a period, facilitating comparison and analysis and sending SMS notifications for all activities due on the farm.
Dairy farm records are stored in the cloud servers, and allow connectivity and access from any location. This is a godsend for ‘telephone farmers’, who are able to monitor and access the records on a real-time basis from wherever they are.
Data is also automatically backed up and cannot be affected by loss of the devices or gadgets (such as phone) used by the dairy investor.
For a dairy consultant worth his salt, these data is critical when analysing the Cowsignals such as rumen fill, manure score, belly score, cud score, Body Condition Score (BCS) and cow comfort scoring.
As dairy farming transits into information-based consultancy, every dairy farmer should embrace ICT innovations. This is likely to improve profits, and management and help farmers to gain and keep control of the entire enterprise.