UW Extension research group creates software to help dairy farmers manage data

Grace Connatser
Wisconsin State Farmer
Victor Cabrera is the director of Dairy Brain, a group working to create data analytics software for dairy farmers.

Dairy Brain, a project led by researchers in the UW Extension system, is a new software program for dairy farmers that will help them manage data on the farm.

The director of the project, Victor Cabrera, started Dairy Brain three years ago. The software provides continuous data stream readouts that help farmers to sort through many numbers that can, at times, be overwhelming. Those numbers include feed costs, milk prices, market prices, herd values and weather predictions.

The software can even give readouts on herd health and help predict certain diseases, such as mastitis, based on genetics and other information. Dairy Brain is designed to help farmers make real-time decisions. Five Wisconsin farms are helping the group's 12 researchers collect data.

"Dairy farmers are inundated with data that they cannot use to their fullest extent," Cabrera said.

Cabrera said farmers may already have data tracking equipment, but they don't communicate with each other or integrate data. While the software may still take years to be completed, researchers are hopeful that they can develop mobile and desktop apps that will combine all data to make farm management easier and more efficient.

Dairy Brain is asking farmers, producers, equipment manufacturers and others in the dairy farming industry to help participate in their advisory group, Coordinated Innovation Network.

Those who join CIN will be able to offer insights for building the software and make connections with others in dairy farming. The group has members from across the US, as well as some from Canada, Europe and Latin America.

"We wanted to have this group together to start an open discussion about the data challenges in the industry," said Liliana Fadul, a postdoctoral researcher with Dairy Brain. "Our first objective was to produce design documents to outline these challenges. We’ve also created a forum so we can receive feedback on these issues."

The project was originally funded by a UW system grant, but has since received a $1 million grant from the US Department of Agriculture for its efforts in improving efficiency.