Precision farming is more than the latest buzzword in the digital livestock industry. But before getting into that, do you know how it came to be? Do you know why we need to digitize the livestock industry? What does digitalization solve?
The Need For Digitalization
Digital livestock farming involves the use of new and advanced technologies, such as digital communication channels, automation, data science, and sensors to help reduce errors and risks and maximize production as well as efficiency. It offers ranchers the chance to make better, more calculated decisions on the basis of advanced insights and more real-time information and reports.
Manual systems have several problems that warrant the need for digitalization. Let us outline how manual paper-based livestock management can be challenging:
- Deviations in the quality of the final product are difficult to trace back to the source. Whether it is milk or meat, it is next to impossible to get to the root cause of the issue and correct it with manual processes. Even in the case of recalls, they turn out to be extremely costly and traceability is a big issue.
- There is no visibility and the management can’t really see what’s going on in the field. They will only get to know about any problems or missed tasks once the day ends and the workers come and submit their forms at the end of the day. This also leads to accountability issues.
- The management can’t ensure optimum efficiency with manual processes because benchmarking isn’t possible. This also leads to quality control issues and problems with adherence to regulatory standards. Even the smallest changes in rules and regulations take too long to implement, which becomes a quality control issue itself.
- It also means that quality control can only be reactive as opposed to proactive when making decisions. Even the “reactive” process is very slow because if an incident is reported at the end of one day, the soonest any corrective action can be taken is the following day.
- Manual workflows and processes have the biggest possibility of human error. Dates can be entered incorrectly and fields can be missed out. Even signatures are often left empty or even signed by someone else instead.
- Audits are a lengthy, cumbersome process and waste a lot of time because the management has to spend time looking through heaps and piles of paper to find the information needed.
- Even if all the information is collected on paper and organized properly, it is extremely easy to lose, or damage paper. One fire can ruin decades’ worth of information.
Digitization helps solve all these pain points from automating data collection to digitizing the whole process and communicating more effectively with the team members in real-time. It also helps the management take more proactive decisions.
Livestock Impact on Natural Resources
Other than manual workflows being a hurdle, there are other problems that necessitate the digitalization of the livestock industry, which includes the impact of livestock farming on natural resources. Let us have a look at some facts:
- More than a quarter of the earth’s land (ice-free surface land) is used by the livestock industry for animal grazing whereas one-third of fertile land is used for feed crop production.
- Nearly one-tenth of the freshwater of the world is used for servicing and serving animals and feed crop production.
- The amount of manure produced needs a vast amount of land and can otherwise pollute groundwater.
- Livestock alone accounts for more than 15% of greenhouse gas emissions which adds fuel to global warming.
Digitalization and precision farming can help achieve sustainability and thereby minimize the adverse impact of livestock farming on depleting natural resources.
But What is Precision Farming?
The increase in the world population has also brought about an increase in the demand for livestock production because people want more food, which includes meat. The population will keep increasing and this means that the demand will also keep inflating and it will get ridiculously high over the next few decades. In order to ensure that there is enough meat for the rising population, farmers and ranchers have to devise a method where they meet this increase in demand while also taking care of sustainability and the impact on natural resources.
Precision livestock farming leverages smart technology to help enable animals to be monitored individually on farms and ranches regardless of the size of the farm. It uses microphones, cameras, movement and pathogen sensors, and other smart tools for animal welfare and health monitoring, management, and control. These tools enable the ranchers to make better decisions regarding their animals. They give insight to the ranchers and enable them to improve the weight and quality of their animals with minimum feed and maximum care.
What Does Digitalization Help Achieve?
Better Understanding of Animals with Smart Body Weight and Composition Evaluation Tools
There are many tools ranchers can use to help determine when cattle and sows are in their reproductive stage to cater to them in a more understanding and helpful manner. It also helps with the efficient production of premium quality beef and pork by enabling the ranchers to use artificial insemination and IVF procedures to enhance production.
These tools include visual evaluation tools called Body Composition Score calculator and other similar tools that help ranchers make important decisions about their animals. The tools can then be integrated with the ranch’s farm management solution and even shared with doctors and vets to enable better care for the livestock animals.
Transparency in Nutrition Monitoring
More often than not, nutrition is the highest cost for ranchers. This is why getting it right is important for them and they need to streamline nutrition management and monitoring to be able to minimize costs and maximize ROI. The problem lies in the fact that any variance in the feed quality is difficult to detect with manual processes before it has actually been consumed and affected the animal and its performance.
Digitalization gives rise to advanced infrared devices that facilitate ranchers in monitoring exactly what goes inside the feed and helps them detect any issues immediately. This helps them control feed quality and take corrective action before any harm is done. It also helps ranchers make more accurate predictions about their animals because there are fewer unforeseen cases due to poor quality feed.
Animal & Herd Health Tracking
Digital animal trackers of today use RFID tags and help identify each and every animal with an ID allocated to them. This helps ranchers and farmers always know where their cattle are and how much they moved around on a particular day right from their mobile devices. Integrated with software solutions, these tags give ranchers access to detailed data about their animals so that they can track their movement, health, and welfare.
This makes herd health management easier and far more detailed. Such solutions also enable ranchers to record and track health events like diseases and even vaccinations for every animal. Quick integration with location-based technology and veterinarians also allows ranchers to monitor disease outbreaks and prevent their animals from getting affected at all.
Diagnosing and Managing Respiratory Diseases on Livestock Farms
Livestock animals are often vulnerable to respiratory diseases and problems. For instance, for pigs, ranchers used to monitor these diseases by listening for a specific cough, but because these farms are subject to a lot of noise because of machinery and animals moving around, it was becoming increasingly difficult to detect these coughs in the midst of all the noise.
Digitalization of the industry gave rise to smart diagnostic tools that became the “ears” for the ranchers and farmers. These sensor-based devices also helped measure other health-related factors in the barns such as humidity and temperature and relayed all the information to the ranchers digitally, in real-time.
What Other Benefits Are There?
Effective and Efficient Monitoring of Animals
Technology gives rise to many tools and solutions that make it easier for farmers and ranchers to monitor their animals. These tools include drones, and even soil moisture detectors for feed crops. Drones nowadays are being used to predict soil quality, plan seeding patterns, and track cattle movement within fields. They also help farmers monitor weed activity and pest populations on their land.
Manual workflows are extremely problematic especially because there is a communication gap between workers and the management. This is because data has to be manually captured on paper and then submitted at the end of the day to the management. So the management has no idea what is going on in the field. Automated workflows can turn this situation around. All the data can now be easily accessible in real-time by the management while they are sitting in their offices. This way, there is better tracking and synchronization of teams in and out of the fields.
Integration with Third-Party Applications
Automation and digitization allow you to avoid errors and delays. Your digital forms can be integrated with all other platforms and applications making it easier for you to share data between platforms and other dashboards. This makes it easier for you to manage your ranches and farms and instantly reflect any changes on all your platforms. It lets you control everything from one central point and helps you make more calculated decisions.
Add Attachments and Images
Paper-based forms and workflows can’t have any attachments or images with them. But with digital forms, you are able to attach images or even sketches right from your smart device. These digital forms also allow you to add an accurate location with the help of GPS coordinates and maps. This makes it easy to determine the exact location of the workers who are capturing data and using the forms. The forms even have options to include digital signatures so that the workers can verify their identities.
Technology has revolutionized decision-making. Farmers and ranchers can now understand and evaluate the consequences of their decisions in a way that could never be done before. With access to so much more information and insights, they can make far more calculated decisions and engage in profitable and sustainable farming. Ranchers and farmers are now using Big Data, data capturing sensors, and smart algorithms to help them get more accurate real-time insights at the taps of their fingers while using digital solutions to help them solve problems and mitigate risks, leading to better decision making.
A World of New Possibilities
Digitalization opens a world of new possibilities for farmers and ranchers. It solves their challenges and helps them enhance animal wellbeing and health, thereby improving the end product they want to market and sell. Even though smart farming is truly revolutionizing the livestock industry, it’s slow in pace because ranchers and farmers haven’t completely realized the potential of technology and the wonders it can do for them.
With the right technology partners helping them implement appropriate technology, these ranchers can streamline their processes and maximize livestock production. With over 15 years of design and development experience, Agtech Folio3 is one of the only technology solutions companies that become your true partners and not just a company you hire.
If you’re a ranch owner in search of a technology partner, we can help you explore your options, and choose the perfect digital solution for your needs.
What is digitalization in farming?
Digitalization is the process of integrating digital technologies into agriculture processes such as livestock and crop management. It helps maximize production and efficiency, eliminate risk, and minimize costs in the long run.
What are Livestock Management Systems?
A livestock management system is a software system that facilitates ranchers and animal farm owners in recording and tracking their animals from birth to getting slaughtered, packed, and sold. It essentially captures all the information regarding the animal’s lifecycle and tracks all important dates and details that help in tracing the meat back to the animal and any issue that may have occurred.