How a new device is helping cows deliver better milk to you
Breaking away from herd mentality allows farmers to find problems with the utmost precision.
Milk. Most of us eat it in some form whether it's in our morning cereal or your afternoon ice cream. But do you ever think about what goes on at the farm before the milk arrives at your table?
Farmers – from those who run a small goatherd at a bed and breakfast in the country to those who manage a large industrial dairy – are able to produce better and higher quality milk for consumers thanks to a novel device called Afilab.
Dairy animals – cows, goats and sheep used for milk and cheese – can’t talk, but Afilab helps translate what’s in their milk. Afilab, produced by the Israeli company Afimilk, hooks onto the milking line and shows real-time data, analyzing productivity over time.
Once the milk starts running, Afilab can tell a farmer immediately if something is wrong with the animal. It can also crunch data for longer-term analysis on general herd health and productivity.
Let’s say Buttercup the cow hasn’t been feeling well. Her farmer has 499 other cows to look after as well and couldn’t know that she’s sick. But the clues that she’s blue are in her milk: her udders may not be inflamed, but there are some signs of blood in Buttercup’s milk, suggesting mastitis.
Typically, milk from the herd would go into a batch for analysis. But with Buttercup’s milk flowing through the Afilab on its own, her owners can know how to respond – if she should be milked more often, for example, or if it’s time to call the vet.
Specifically, Afilab measures the amount of milkfat, protein, lactose and presence of blood in the milk for every cow and for every drop of milk.
With individual, real-time data in hand, the farmer can decide to change the feed or make better informed decisions on when to retire or cull an animal from the herd. (Retiring animals get to go to a livestock sanctuary.)
The device also helps dairy farmers produce higher quality, premium milk for cheese. By classifying the quality of the milk directly at the farm, Afilab is able to help farmers of any size, boutique or industrial, increase the value of their milk and cheese production by up to 15%.
The Afilab device is being used all over the world, from New Zealand to California.
“Once you do implement it, you can’t live life without it anymore,” says Jon Tollenaar, who runs Tollenaar Holsteins in California. “I kind of put it in a scenario like electricity. You know we can’t milk cows without electricity. It’s like I can’t run a dairy anymore without Afimilk.”
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