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Anders Trærup for Aarhus Universitet

Realizing the untapped potential in the dairy herd

By keeping your dairy herd healthy and preventing disease, it will reduce CO2 emissions and increase revenue. According to professor Søren Østergaard, research project manager, many farmers underestimate the consequences of disease in their herd, thereby losing the value of preventing ailments such as mastitis and hoof disorders. 

The rising world population inevitably leads to an increasing demand for protein in the food system. Milk and milk products play an important part in the diet for people across countries. Therefore, when dairy farmers are not realizing the full potential of their production, we have a problem. On one hand, the associated carbon dioxide emissions per litre of milk produced increases. On the other hand, the farmer could make bigger profits with the same herd. 

Mastitis, hoof, and metabolism disorders are the three most significant disease complexes—and they are preventable. But in as much as 50% of the cases, the farmer misjudges the advantages of investing in measures to ensure the health of cows before they get sick. This leads to poorer animal welfare, less feed efficiency and milk yield, and ultimately, shorter lifespans of the animals. All factors that can be directly connected to economic losses and higher climate impact. 

Healthy animals live longer, absorb more nutrients from their feed, and give higher milk yields

Tools that quantify disease prevention

In the KlimaKS project, the aim is to develop a surveillance tool—Surveil—to find causes of and preventive measures to diseases. By using herd data combined with veterinarian’s observations and milk samples, the tool will alert of health problems which then can be confirmed with blood samples. 

The farmer can watch the output from Surveil in the KlimaKS Dashboard. The dashboard will make it easy to prioritise and optimise disease prevention. With the dashboard overview of climate impact, economy, and disease occurrence, the days of complex calculations of cost vs. benefit should be over. Farmers can rely on the tools to do the calculating work for them and choose which of the concrete solution plans to implement. 

Healthier cows mean less climate impact

An added benefit to the tools is the effect it will have on carbon dioxide emissions from the whole production chain. Healthy animals live longer, absorb more nutrients from their feed, and give higher milk yields. In combination, it will reduce the emissions per litre of milk produced, and make animal welfare higher, too.