Farm sustainability and the DeLaval Dairy Advisor

Advisory services are one of the most important parts of our business strategy and an important way for DeLaval to be able to reduce emissions on our already installed base.

When Dairy Advisor William Smits arrives at a farm, he’s interested in two things; helping farmers increase their output and improving animal health. The two go hand in hand. The more milk produced per cow, the lower the environmental impact per litre of milk produced and the higher the profitability for the farmer.

William Smits, Dairy Advisor DeLaval

But to achieve high milk yields the farmer has to take great care of animal welfare. “It’s all in the teat,” says William Smits when probed about the best way to help a farm run both profitable and sustainable operations. “If a cow is milked perfectly, the teat will close soon after after milking,” he says. “If not, the teat can remain open for eight hours and be susceptible to bacteria and other pathogens. That means the cow will now potentially have to fight off germs instead of spending its energy producing milk.

” After nearly 30 years working for DeLaval around the world and particularly in Asia and the Middle East, Smits has seen just about every kind of dairy operation on the planet. In his role as a dairy advisor, he spends a lot of time helping farmers improve their operations through observation and advice. But he also spends a lot of time ensuring the best use of the DeLaval machinery the customer has bought. There are default presets on all milking robots for example but these need to be tweaked to suit the needs of each farm.

“You have to look at each farm separately and be aware that even different countries also have different dairy cultures. The Americans have a history of high-vacuum fast milking while the Europeans are much slower but they try to get more milk
from the cow on each occasion.”

“Take China for example,” says Smits, who has spent a large portion of his career there. “There are a lot of rotary operations there and they are also using our farm management system, Delaval DelPro, so we could see an enormous difference in how long it takes to milk the cow from one farm to another. It’s about understanding how to best use the machinery but also understanding the people aspect on each farm. How well do you treat the cow in pre-milking? How much time do you spend stimulating the cow to release the milk? How much time separates pre-milking and cleaning the cow and who is doing what? You need to bring all of that information together and you can make a big difference for your own operations and for the cow’s welfare.”

“With Delpro, we can see the milk curves and when the cow reaches peak flow,” says Smits. “You still need someone on-site from time to time looking at the farms and looking at those teats to make sure everything is healthy, but the data can tell you a lot.”

Smits also notes that there are clear improvements on the individual farms he works with, not just from a profitability and animal welfare perspective, but the advisory services Smits and his colleagues provide are also resulting in farms reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. “We are the only ones gathering this kind of data in China and making our results available,” says Smits. “So, we’re setting a benchmark and showing that very large farms can have extremely low mastitis levels for example. When others see these kind of results, they want to do the same and this helps speed up the spread of knowledge.”

Smits is convinced that this kind of benchmarking is making all farms in a region more efficient and, as a result, more sustainable.