RFID-Enabled Dairy Farm-Towards Total Farm Management

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is currently being deployed in government mandated livestock identification schemes across the world. RFID in its basic function can help authorities identify animals, especially when traceability becomes paramount during disease outbreaks across regions. This paper provides a view of how an RFID-enabled dairy farm can leverage mobile network infrastructure towards achieving total farm management. The data for the study was collected from two case studies, both NLIS (national livestock identification system) compliant dairy farms on the South Coast of New South Wales in Australia. The Cochrane and Strong Farms were used as models to illustrate the core and auxiliary technology components of an RFID-enabled dairy farm. This paper provides the first end-to-end view of the infrastructure and processes required to achieve an advanced RFID-enabled state-of-the-art dairy farm.

An abundance of literature is available regarding the technology of electronic identification, in the form of RFID [1]. However, there is a gap regarding electronic animal identification for the purposes of improving total farm management practices, especially on dairy farms. Articles by Ishmael [2] and Karnjanatwe [3] provide a glimpse of the possibilities for utilizing electronic identification for enhanced farm management, however these articles are not focused upon the dairy farm industry, nor do they provide an indepth look at the total farm management operations used at these farms. Ishmael [2] tells of the economic benefits achieved by a group of farmers resulting from the utilization of RFID technology to provide individual identification and subsequently enhanced farm management operations on their beef farm in America. Karnjanatwe [3] provides an insight into an actual application of RFID technologies used to enable enhanced farm management of pigs, such as automating the feeding process and regulating how much each pig eats. James [4] and Davies [5] provide more information on deriving benefits specifically related to the dairy industry, however also lack depth and explanations of the farm management practices undertaken to gain these benefits. James states how electronic identification can be used to reduce the labor required for the milking process, providing large cost savings, while Davies [5]demonstrates the ability to improve the quality of milk yields through controlled feeding processes based on electronic identification. 2. Australian dairy farm case studies There were two in depth Australian case studies conducted for this investigation [6]. Case Study A was conducted on the Mandelyn Holsteins dairy, owned and operated by the Strong family. This farm was selected as the traditional (low RFID implementation) case study, as they have a well established, highly reputable dairy, however do not currently utilize any RFID devices in their farm management operations. As such, this dairy provides a prime example of how dairy farms can operate currently without the aid of RFID devices. Case Study B can be considered advanced and was undertaken on the Cochrane dairy farm, located in Pyree on the NSW South Coast [7]. This farm has been selected as the advanced case study, as it has a strong use of RFID technology, and is well known in the region as one of the most advanced RFID setups. As the farm also utilizes RFID tags that are compliant with Australia’s NLIS (National Livestock Identification System) system, the farm provides a currently applicable example of how participants in this system can derive additional benefits through the use of RFID on their dairy farms. The data collection techniques used in this study included interviews, observations and document analysis.

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