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Data Driven Dairy Decisions 4 Farmers

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - 4D4F (Data Driven Dairy Decisions 4 Farmers)

Reporting period: 2017-09-01 to 2019-02-28

The Data Driven Dairy Decisions for Farmers (4D4F) thematic network focused on the role which dairy animal and environmental sensors can play in collecting real time information to help make more informed decisions in dairy farming.

The network developed a Community of Practice (COP) comprising of farmers, farm advisors, technology suppliers, knowledge exchange professionals and researchers who worked together to debate, collect and communicate best practice drawn from innovative farmers, industry and the research community to facilitate the co-creation of best practice.

The results were communicated to farmers using best practice guides on the use of sensors and data analysis tools supported by videos, infographics and an online virtual warehouse of dairy sensors technologies.

The CoP was surveyed and a research priority report was produced and promoted to both researchers and funders.

The network included the development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) which can be tailored to individual farms to help farmers and farm advisors adopt dairy sensor and data analysis technology. The SOPs were developed by working groups of the COP including farmers, farm advisors, technology suppliers, knowledge exchange professionals and researchers, who will worked together to develop farmer friendly SOPs -turning data into action decisions.

The on line COP and published communication tools was complimented by on farm events and workshops to help farmers and farm advisors implement innovative sensor and data analysis technologies. The workshops and events established new ways of combining technologies and promoted discussion between farmers and their peers on how best to use sensors and data analysis in their own businesses. This will lead to local peer to peer support to facilitate the adoption of data driven dairy decision making. The network worked closely with EIP Agri and at member state level it worked with existing EIP Operational Groups working on dairy data and sensors and, where suitable Operational Groups did not exist, it worked with local partners to develop new quasi-operational groups.
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4D4F's virtual Community of Practice (CoP) www.4D4F.eu contains 12 Special Interest Groups (SIGs): Udder Health, Reproduction, Nutrition, Metabolic disease, Data management, Milking data, Activity and behaviour, Housing, Calves and young stock, Grassland management, Goats and Lameness.
Each of these groups contains Best Practice Guides, Infographics, opinion articles, case studies and videos which compare and contrast the different data technologies that are available. There 42 videos available that demonstrate best practice , opinions and different technologies

A warehouse of technology allows users to identify and compare the functionality of commercial sensors that are available in each SIG

Standard operating procedures were developed, published and integrated into management systems.


The CoP has a homepage where all those involved in the industry can share ideas, and is a repository for other 4D4F reports, namely the annual Research Priority Report, the Dairy Sensor research Report, and the Industry Innovations Report.

53 Events and workshops have been held which demonstrated the cutting edge of available technology, and brought together interested parties to extend best practice and develop standard operating procedures.
4D4F addresses five of the top six reasons that have been identified as barriers to the uptake of technology by farmers (Bewley et al 2013). These are :
Farmers are not familiar with the technology
Farmers are confused by the information
Farmers do not have time to research the available products
Farmers do not see the perceived value
The technology seems too complex

4D4F has facilitated farmer investment, improved the use of technology on farm, brought together partners in a research project, encouraged a business start up and developed young talent.

The increased uptake of sensor technology will not only improve animal welfare, but also help improve the quality life of the farmers themselves.

Three further developments beyond the state of the art were:

1 identifying the benefits of combining thermal imaging cameras with accelerometer based lameness alerts, which resulted in validating the lameness alerts and enabling the treatment of lameness weeks before the lameness had become apparent to the stockman.

2 Developing SOPs that can allow automated welfare assessment

3 Developing and integrating SOPs on goat milk data and integrating them into the farmdesk.eu management system
Participants at the Kick Off Meeting, Brussels 31st March 2016