UW Dairy Brain project fall 2021 update

Despite the pandemic limitations, the UW-Dairy Brain project has continued active and making significant progress. The Dairy Brain has now, in beta version, an internal service that integrates at least the three most important software in dairy farms: management, feeding, and milking parlor data. Integrated data from this system is made available through a web-based Application Programming Interface (API). These APIs are the modern way to access and integrate data and analyses so insights can be learned and decisions can be made simultaneously as data is being produced on participating dairy farms.

The UW-Dairy Brain team has strengthened collaboration with large data processors such as the US Council of Dairy Cattle Breeding, AgSource-Valley Ag Software, and Dairy Records Management Systems. Larger and diverse big datasets are critical to inform analytical models used as frameworks to deploy the Dairy Brain concept. Also, as part of these, the UW-Dairy Brain team is accessing external APIs from Valley Ag Software and Bovisync to test alternate ways to retrieve, connect, integrate, and efficiently use dairy farm data from third party vendors.

The UW-Dairy Brain Coordinated Innovation Network, CIN, now a group of more than 100 professionals, is active and working hand-in-hand with the UW-Dairy Brain team. At the moment, it is working on peer reviewed publications about data governance in dairy farming. One of those papers related to adoption of decision support tools (counting with 23 co-authors) has been already published in the Animals journal. Two other articles are under development. Also, the CIN was instrumental in developing an instrument and planning the development and implementation of a survey research initiative to query farmers and industry professionals about data governance issues in dairy farms. Survey results are back and being analyzed at the moment.

Right before Covid restrictions started, the UW-Madison Division of Extension hosted a meeting about the Dairy Brain and its flagship extension program, Data Money. The meeting was an opportunity to recruit farmers to participate in the Data Money program, a farm team-based extension program that looks to better utilize data already available at the farm. The experience has been very encouraging by developing custom-tailored decision support tools in close collaboration with the farmer, the farm team, extension professionals and the Dairy Brain team.

One exciting development has been the connection of the UW-Dairy Brain project with the national Ruminant Farm System (RuFaS) Model, which is run by a collaborative and interdisciplinary team of agricultural scientists at Cornell, UW-Madison, University of Arkansas, UC Davis, South Dakota SU, and the USDA Agricultural Research Service. The RuFaS is a whole farm simulation model that can use data pipelines produced by the Dairy Brain. A 4-year CALS Hatch proposal was submitted and funded, which is starting right now (fall 2021) with a new PhD student, Yijing Gong, who will be working in the intersection of reproductive programs, genetic progress, and culling protocols connecting the RuFaS model with the UW-Dairy Brain data. Also, Tadeu Eder da Silva, Postdoctoral Researcher, has joined the team in January 2021 working on connecting Dairy Brain data streams with the RuFaS and running simulation models to assess the impact of management practices on economic, environmental, and welfare outcomes.

UW-Dairy Brain Coordinated Innovation Network (CIN) virtual meeting on December 3, 2020. Photo provided by Victor Cabrera.