The animal article of the month for January is ‘Invited review: Helping dairy farmers to improve economic performance utilizing data-driving decision support tools

Data-driven decision-making is a necessity in today’s dairy farm systems. Dairy farms have embraced technological innovations and procured vast amounts of permanent data streams, but all this information is not integrated efficiently to improve management and decision-making. It is imperative to develop systems that can collect, integrate, manage, and analyse on-farm and off-farm data for practical and relevant actions.

Farmers are making important management decisions in a non-programmed fashion and relying mostly on intuition and experience. These decisions are inefficient in the use of available data because of the lack of proper analysis frameworks and decision support tools. In general, dairy farms are lacking advanced projection frameworks such as simulation and optimization. An efficient decision support system framework is critical for dairy farming management and decision-making.

Additionally, dairy farming is a highly dynamic and integrated production system that requires continued and intense decision-making towards optimal management and therefore computerized data-driven decision support tools are crucial. Also, dairy farm systems are highly dynamic, with changing market conditions and prices, evolving policies and environmental restrictions together with every-time more variable climate conditions that determine performance. Furthermore, dairy farm systems are highly integrated with heavily interrelated components such as the dairy herd, soils, crops, weather, and management. Under these premises, it is critical to evaluate a dairy farm following a dynamic integrated system approach in which it is crucial use meaningful data records, which are every time more available, within decision support tools for optimal decision making and economic performance. No wonder several research and extension institutions, and companies are nowadays providing decision support tools based on expert systems and artificial intelligence as an attempt to cover this gap. One of these initiatives is the University of Wisconsin Dairy Management research and extension program ( : Tools) that since 2008 has been developing and promoting the use of simple, solid, robust, user-friendly, scientific decision support tools for dairy farm management.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Dairy Management program has produced a suite of more than 45 computerized decision support tools to assist dairy farm management that are openly and freely available at : Tools. is a translational innovative research in various areas of dairy farm management that include nutrition, reproduction, calf and heifer management, replacement, price risk, and environment. Tools are customizable to be farm-specific. These data-driven decision support tools are aimed to help dairy farmers improve their decision-making, environmental stewardship, and economic performance. Dairy farmers and dairy farm advisers are using these decision support tools to make better more informed decision-making. Better decision-making is translated into improved performance, reduced environmental impact, and enhanced profitability.

This article is freely available for one month: ‘Invited review: Helping dairy farmers to improve economic performance utilizing data-driving decision support tools‘.

Author: V. E. Cabrera

The animal Article of the Month is selected by the Editor-in-Chief and is freely available for one month. View the recent selections

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