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A Survey of Italian Dairy Farmers’ Propensity for Precision Livestock Farming Tools

CREA Research Center for Animal production and Aquaculture, via A. Lombardo, 11 - 26100 Lodi, Italy
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Animals 2019, 9(5), 202; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9050202
Received: 20 February 2019 / Revised: 19 April 2019 / Accepted: 24 April 2019 / Published: 28 April 2019
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Simple Summary

The use of information and technology in precision livestock farming (PLF) to improve animal health, welfare, and farm efficiency is a developing area with great scientific and commercial interest. To gain a better understanding of the use of PLF tools by Italian dairy farmers and to analyze their perceptions of the importance of new technologies, a survey was carried out in the province of Cremona, an area of well-recognized economic importance for the Italian dairy industry. Technicians at the Provincial Breeder Association interviewed 490 farmers (who represent 82% of the associated dairy farms in this province) to collect information on the parameters currently measured by PLF tools on their dairy farms. The survey provided evidence of the interest in, and significant presence of, PLF tools for the individual monitoring of dairy cows. Most farmers reported using sensors for automated milk yield recording and estrus detection. Although the use of sensors for the detection of mastitis and estrus did not appear to be widespread, this technology was considered very important for the improvement of herd management. Propensity for PLF technology use was greater in farmers managing larger herd sizes. The benefit-to-cost ratio was evaluated as the most important factor in determining whether to use a particular tool. In addition, the farmers stated that before purchase, they considered the time required to manage the data generated by technology as an important issue.

Abstract

A targeted survey was designed with the aim of describing the diffusion of precision livestock farming (PLF) tools in one of the most intensive dairy farming provinces in Italy. Technicians at the Provincial Breeder Association of Cremona interviewed 490 dairy farmers and obtained data regarding the role and age of the respondents; the land owned by the farmers; their herd sizes (HS, lactating plus dry cows; small HS < 101, medium HS 101–200, large HS > 200 cows/herd); their average 305 day milk yield (low MY < 9501, medium MY 9501–10,500, high MY > 10,500 kg/head); the cow to employed worker ratio (low CW < 33, medium CW 33–47, high CW > 47 cows/worker); the use of PLF tools to monitor production, reproduction, and health; and the criteria and motivations for investing in PLF tools. The use of automated MY recording and estrus detection systems was primarily associated with HS (more present in larger farms), followed by MY (more present in more productive farms), and then CW (more present with a high cow: worker ratio). Concern about the time required to manage data was the most common subjective issue identified as negatively affecting the purchase of these tools. The future of PLF use in this region will depend upon the availability of an effective selection of tools on the market. View Full-Text
Keywords: dairy cow; estrus detection; precision livestock farming; survey; welfare monitoring dairy cow; estrus detection; precision livestock farming; survey; welfare monitoring
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MDPI and ACS Style

Abeni, F.; Petrera, F.; Galli, A. A Survey of Italian Dairy Farmers’ Propensity for Precision Livestock Farming Tools. Animals 2019, 9, 202.

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