The Livestock Improvement Corporation says the internet is a key enabler of its goal to boost dairy farm productivity by 15 percent — an improvement that equates to $1.1 billion more in milk solids nationally a year.
Speaking at today's Tuanz Rural Broadband Symposium in Rotorua, Gavin McEwen, LIC's business manager of farm software, says while his organisation can already point to significant productivity gains from its herd improvement application, MINDA, which is now installed on 9,000 farmers' PCs, even better gains can be had from improved stock management.
McEwen says government and the private sector should make broadband investment where they can get a good return. The potential return on investment from dairying is better than most, he says. Allowing farmers to produce “smarter, cheaper and better and generate more per hectare”.
The gains do not come from the network, but from the applications the network enables, he says, so investment has to be made in both.
McEwen says dairy productivity has been improving 1.7 percent per year compounding, in part due to improvement in the herds through LIC's genetic improvement programme.
MINDA allows farmers to input productivity data from computers across New Zealand into a national database which then enriches the data and synchs it back to farmers's PCs to aid their decisionmaking and boost herd quality. The application ranks individual animals on breeding and production values.
Farmers can then decide to cull unproductive animals and replace them with productive ones from LIC's programmes to improve the average productivity of their herds.
McEwen says with herd sizes growing from around 100 a quarter of a century ago to 351 now, farmers no longer know their animals and gut feeling is being replaced by computer-aided decisionmaking such as MINDA.
Improved broadband will allow LIC to deliver new products to help chase that 15 percent productivity gain, targeting animal nutrition and management, he says.