Modern Dairy Technologies Benefit Producers

The Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM), The National Milk Producers Federation and Dairy Farmers of America, issued a study quantifying the benefits of modern dairy technologies and how they have positively impacted consumers, dairy farmers and cows over the past 15 years.

The study was unveiled at World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wisconsin during a panel discussion of industry experts and moderated by the 75th Alice in Dairyland, Taylor Schaefer.

“The dairy industry contributes up to 3.5 percent of the US gross domestic product, over three million jobs across the U.S., and $42 billion in direct wages,” said Schaefer. “And The Environmental Benefits of Modern Dairy, Hay, and Forage Production Technologies study highlights how policies and technological advancements can help farmers increase outcomes.”

The study also shared benefits of dairy and the practices associated with modern dairy production, while debunking common myths and misconceptions about modern dairy practices.

“We are living in a new age of agriculture, and today’s modern dairy, hay and forage production technologies have an enormous positive impact on dairy farmers, cows, consumers and the environment,” said Curt Blades, Senior Vice President of Industry Sectors and Product Leadership at the Association of Equipment Manufacturers. “One of our goals at AEM is to encourage the adoption of these technologies by more farmers, so they can all reap the benefits as we continue to focus on sustainability.”

According to the study, dairy farmers have become more sustainable with advances in genetics, technology and data driven decisions. In fact, milk production in the U.S. has increased 19 percent since 2007 despite fewer cows.

“Dairy farmers are going above and beyond to provide milk that is responsibly produced,” said Matt Daley, President of GEA Farm Technologies. “Ninety-nine percent of all US milk comes from dairies participating in the FARM (Farmers Assuring Responsible Management) program, ensuring 360-degree responsible stewardship of dairies and milk production.”

As part of the stewardship pledge to consumers, the dairy industry is pursuing a voluntary goal to achieve greenhouse gas neutrality by 2050.

Contributions to output

Along with the continued innovations in technology there are other enablers that have contributed to dairy output and sustainability, including:

  • Deeper Insights: Driven by data, farmers have a deeper insight into their operation, enabling better decision making.
  • Genetic Selection: Improvements driven by better genetic selection of cows has been a major contributor to the overall productivity increase in the industry.
  • Larger Scale Dairies: The average herd size is twice as large in 2020 as it was in 2003, resulting in an intensification of production practices and the financial advantages associated with economies of scale.
  • Knowledge Sharing: The internet and social media has reduced barriers to information sharing between farmers and allowed for a crosspollination of ideas and spreading of best practices across geographies.

Compared to 2007, the resource optimization that technology enables today has led to:

  • 930,000 less cows to produce the same amount of milk.
  • Reducing feed enough to fill 3,200 NFL football stadiums
  • Reduced need for cropland roughly equal to the state of Maryland
  • GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions improvements equivalent to taking four million cars of the road permanently
  • Water savings each year are enough to supply New York City for two years

“North America has far outpaced the rest of the world in milk productivity, producing nearly four times as much as the global average,” said Chad Huyser, President of Lely North America. “With only four percent of the world’s cows, North America produces approximately 15 percent of all the milk worldwide. In fact, between 1960 and 2020, North American milk yield has increased 3.5 times, while the rest of the world has increased only 1.5 times.

“These improvements are the result of genetics, technology, farm management practices and other innovations that benefit cow, dairy farmer, environment and society,” continued Huyser.

In addition to livestock generics, the feed ration and quality is the greatest determinant of milk quality and yield. With the advent of near infrared sensors, modern forage harvesters can test forage for things like protein and energy content as it is being harvested. This enables a better-quality feed, lower waste and higher milk yields.

Overcoming Barriers

While the industry has improved significantly, continued improvements hinge on perpetual technology adoption. Between 2022 and 2030 it is anticipated that the following gains could be realized if adoption and innovation continue at the rate that they have over the last 15 years:

  • Milk yield can increase by three percent.
  • Feed use could decrease six percent.
  • Land use could decrease four percent.
  • GHG emission can decrease eight percent.
  • Water use will decrease three percent.

“If the industry continues with its current trend of resource efficiency, in 2030, milk will potentially increase by 11% as compared to 2021,” said Fabian Bernal, Global Head of Sustainability at DeLaval.  “But this hinges on the sustained innovation that has led to where the industry is today, including continued technology adoption, integration of artificial intelligence, continued improvement in genetics, precision irrigation adoption, among other innovations.”

AEM, The National Milk Producers Federation and Dairy Farmers of America, continue to work together to advance technologies and practices that will bring the potential the study highlights to fruition including promoting policies that reward innovation, growing farm income, improving enabling infrastructure and improving consumer communication.