ICT Based Animal Fertility Management Model in Private Dairy Farm  

R.S. Ghasura1 , H.B. Patel2 , G.B. Dudhatra2 , V.K. Mevada1 , G.M. Chaudhary1
1. Department of Animal Husbandry Extension, College of Veterinary Science & Animal Husbandry, Sardarkrushinagar Dantiwada Agricultural University, Sardarkrushinagar-385506, Gujarat, India
2. Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, College of Veterinary Science & Animal Husbandry, Sardarkrushinagar Dantiwada Agricultural University, Sardarkrushinagar-385506, Gujarat, India
Author    Correspondence author
Animal Molecular Breeding, 2012, Vol. 2, No. 1   doi: 10.5376/amb.2012.02.0001
Received: 19 Sep., 2012    Accepted: 25 Sep., 2012    Published: 26 Sep., 2012
© 2012 BioPublisher Publishing Platform
This is an open access article published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Preferred citation for this article:

Ghasura et al., 2012, ICT Based Animal Fertility Management Model in Private Dairy Farm, Animal Molecular Breeding, Vol.2, No.1, 1-6 (doi: 10.5376/amb.2012.02.0001)

Abstract

Reproductive efficiency of the dairy herd is important for the economic success of the cattle owners and dairy operations in rural India. Artificial insemination is a scientific reproductive technology that is popular in the dairy industry. Efficient heat detection management and correct insemination timing are crucial issues that play pivotal roles in reproduction. The timing of insemination must ensure that the fertile life of sperms and eggs are synchronized. There are many reasons for the failure of artificial insemination or natural service. A sample paper of cattle owners shows that large percentage of the owners miss heat period and except some kind of arrangement that intimates them regarding heat period. Challenge is to intimate the concerned persons on time regarding the heat period. This paper focuses on the information needed and how communication technology can be helpful to intimate concerned people about heat period and status of the cattle. Based on facts of this paper we proposed the information and communication based model to manage heat period, insemination and fertility. We have developed software as a part of the model. This low cost solution can be helpful to improve the fertility of the dairy herd and economy of owners.

Keywords
Herd management software; Information communication technology (ICT); Dairy farm

Introduction
Livestock sector plays a critical role in the welfare of India's rural population. A noteworthy feature of Indian dairy scenario is that all the milk is produced by a very large number of dairy animals having low productivity (Saravanakumar, 2009). Thus, only marginal improvement in animal productivity is capable of making a sustainable impact. Management plays very important role in achieving high reproductive efficiency i.e. fertility in dairy animals mainly cattle and buffaloes. This demands individual attention to each cow/buffalo at the time of breeding and parturition. This has a great economic impact on farming. India will need to apply new ICTs effectively in improving these systems so that they support meeting each of the above requirements for its dairy sector. The potential of using new ICT base applications and products in India lays both in intensive and smallholder livestock systems. Its applications in large intensive systems in India will be very similar to those in the developed countries. The ICT base tools also decrease in infertility ratio and easy herd management in dairy farm (Parikh et al., 2010; Parkison and Ramirez, 2006).


1 What is Infertility? 
Infertility in cattle accounts for major economic losses in dairy farming and dairy industry in India. Maintaining an infertile animal is an economic burden and in most countries such animals are driven to slaughterhouses. In cattle, nearly 10~30 percent of lactations may be affected by infertility and reproductive disorders. To attain good fertility or high calving rate both the male and female animals should be well fed and free from diseases. 

With these agents the major causes of infertility viz.

1) Poor detection of heat
2) Untimely insemination
3) Sub estrus/Silent estrus
4) Anestrous

2 Reasons for Infertility
The causes of infertility are many and can be complex. Infertility or failure to conceive and give birth to a young one can be due to malnutrition, infections, congenital defects, management errors and ovulatory or hormonal imbalances in the female (Figure 1). 

 

 

Figure 1 New ICT based fertility management model in private dairy farm India as well as abroad

 

2.1 Herd management software programme of commercial dairy farm 
Maintenance of proper records helps in efficient management of a dairy farm. Record keeping is essential for evaluation of the corrective measures so as to maximized profits. Software programme of computer has very crucial role in dairy farm record management. The following records has very crucial role in dairy farm record management (Figure 2).

 

Figure 2 Herd management software programme

 

1) Date of birth and pedigree information (at least parents and preferably grandparents) of the animals.
2) Records on growth
3) Reproduction records (estrus, breeding, pregnancy, diagnosis, and calving)
4) Milk production records (daily)
5) Health and Veterinary records
6) Treatment of diseases and disorders
7) Feeding item records (daily consumption of green fodder, straw and concentrates) estimated values
8) Periodic test of milk, fat, SNF and other quality parameters.
 
2.2 Monitoring reproductive health at commercial dairy farms
1) Reproduction Records/Gynecological Cards (estrus, breeding, pregnancy, diagnosis)
2) Diagnose and record pregnancy, expected date of parturition or failure of conception, etc.
3) Attend parturition and post-partum complications promptly and record.
4) Examine all heifers at the time they are expected to attain the age and weight of puberty.
5) Record clinical findings, estrous cycles, etc. of all the animals on ‘GYNAECOLOGICAL CARDS’.
6) Records follow up action date on ‘FORWORD POSTING SHEET’.
7) Keep a strict watch on animals that turn un-economic due to reproductive problems.
8) Take corrective steps in the breeding programmes if necessary.
9) Take prompt steps for culling reproductively un-economic animals.
10) As far as possible, regularly replace old animals with young heifers (Figure 3).
 
 
Figure 3 Breeding software application monitoring reproductive health in dairy farm


3 Advantages of Herd Management Software (HMS) in the Indian Context
3.1 Ease of entering data
The manager needs to enter all information into one console instead of searching for the relevant page to enter data in 20 or more registers which have to be maintained in an organized dairy farm (Ramkumar et al., 2007).


3.2 Error-checking
In a large herd, it is quite likely that the person who writes the records does not see the cattle on a daily basis. This makes the system more prone to human error in the form of erroneous figures/dates, illegible/confusing handwriting, entering data on the wrong history sheet etc. Herd management software can be programmed to warn the operator regarding entry of erroneous data. E.g. the program can refuse to record drying off of a cow which is not milking, or calving in a heifer which has not been served.


3.3 Ease of initiation
The software can be installed on any desktop or notebook PC. Some versions of the software allow data entry on a Palmtop/Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) which the manager can carry around with him on the farm and synchronize later with the main computer. As all these programs have an easy Graphical User Interface (GUI) consisting of icons for most routine activities, any person with basic computer knowledge can start using the software with a few hours of instruction.


3.4 Data security
As most software of this type needs the user to log in with a username and password before he can start accessing data, data security is absolute. Further, various levels of access like User, Supervisor and Manager can be created, with different rights for each, so that lower-level operators cannot tamper with data. e.g. ‘User’ cannot access previous day’s data, or ‘Supervisor’ cannot access Reports and Analysis module etc. Such kind of data security is very difficult to attain in traditional recording systems, where almost all registers are accessible to all employees and there is scope for manipulation, fraud or loss of data integrity.


3.5 Generates information automatically
HMS automatically generates information based on the data which has been fed in. The farm manager need not waste his time calculating totals or counting the number of days between two dates. E.g. entering the daily milk yields will automatically generate information like lactation milk yield, peak yield etc. Entering date of calving and date of successful insemination will generate service period.


3.6 Generates visual indicators
Software can generate visual indicators like graphs, pie charts etc. which assist the farm manager in comprehending the trends behind the numbers. E.g. a lactation milk curve best indicates a cow’s milking performance rather than 600 numbers representing the morning and evening milk yields spread over a period of ten months.


3.7 Generates efficiency indicators
Software can be programmed to automatically generate productive, reproductive and economic efficiency indicators like persistency of milk yield, milk yield/day of lactation, milk yield/day of calving interval, milk yield/day of body weight at calving, lifetime milk yield, growth studies etc. which can aid the manager in making decisions regarding selection. A similar exercise using registers would be prohibitively time-consuming, error-prone and laborious.


3.8 Allows comparisons
The manager can compare performance of two individuals, two groups of animals, or the same animal/group over different time periods of time to assess superior performance of individuals/groups and managerial measures which can increase productivity. This feature can be of great help in the evaluation of any new technology before implementation in the whole herd. E.g. a new feed additive can be added to the diet of one group of cows and their milking performance compared instantly with a similar group which is not fed the additive. Traditional history sheets and other records do not permit this type of comparison unless lot of manual computing is done.


3.9 Reminders
Herd management software can remind the farm manager every morning about the scheduled activities for the day like vaccination, deworming, ectoparasiticide application, insemination, pregnancy diagnosis, routine maintenance etc. It will also greatly assist him in carrying out these operations in a timely manner and enable him to prioritize and organize his activities for the day. E.g. on entering data about the dates of insemination, the program will automatically remind the manager when it’s time to conduct a pregnancy test.


3.10 Alarms
Traditional record keeping systems do not warn the farm manager about potential events that can be detected by abnormal changes in some of the parameters. E.g. software can be programmed to sound an alarm when there is abnormal decrease in daily milk production of any cow, which can be on account of estrus or disease.


3.11 Generates reports
Herd management software can generate daily, monthly or annual reports or reports for a specific time-period automatically. The format of the reports can be changed as per the user’s requirements. These reports give an overall summary of the activities of the farm and help improve managerial efficiency. E.g. milking report, breeding report, Sales report, Expenditure Statement etc. As these reports are dynamic, any change in the data will be immediately reflected in the report, thus allowing the farm manager to conduct “what-if” studies. Such iterative studies are not possible in traditional record keeping systems.


3.12 Scalability
With today’s desktop computers, there is virtually no limit to the amount of herd data which can be handled and processed. It does not make much difference whether the herd has 20 or 2 000 cows the same program can cater to any herd size. However, traditional recording systems become more cumbersome, labor-intensive and error-prone as the herd size increases.


3.13 Ease of backing up data
In a large, organized dairy farm, information is almost as valuable as the livestock. Loss of pedigree and performance data recorded over a period of years can be devastating, especially in dairy cattle, where the generation interval is very large. Traditional record-keeping systems deteriorate over time, are difficult to duplicate, and prone to damage and destruction by way of fire, moisture, insects, pests etc. However, computerized records can be securely backed up on a flash drive, a removable hard disk, a CD/DVD or on the internet at the touch of a button.


3.14 Data transmission for expert evaluation
The entire herd data for a period of many years can be sent instantly across the world via the internet to experts for assessment and evaluation. This can be very helpful in situations like culling where the manager has to take decisions and a mistake can have severe long-term repercussions. Other possible applications of this feature are the Progeny Testing Programme, wherein the performance of different sires can be evaluated on various farms under varying conditions. It can also be used as a component of the Herd Registration Scheme to compile performance data from various locations.


3.15 Ease of analysis
Data generated by herd management software can be easily converted to MS-Excel, MS-Access or any other database format and subjected to statistical analysis for evaluating various factors influencing performance.


3.16 Integration with newer technologies
Herd management software is an essential requirement in case the farm manager wishes to implement newer technologies like Radio Frequency Identification Devices (RFID), advanced machine milking etc. in order to improve farm efficiency.


3.17 Eco-friendly
In times when livestock are being blamed by various organizations for causing more global warming than all the world’s automobiles combined, computerized, paper-less farm records are more eco-friendly, and their contribution to saving the environment, by way of increasing efficiency and decreasing the number of livestock which need to be reared, would be substantial.


4 Limitations of Herd Management Software in the Indian Context
4.1 Lack of indigenous software
Absence of commercially available software with technical support, local terminology and availability in regional languages is the single foremost factor which has prevented the large-scale usage of herd management software in India.


4.2 Negligent attitude towards productivity
There is a very casual attitude toward efficiency of production, especially in the agricultural sector. In most dairy farms, the only parameter in which the owner is interested is the total milk yield produced by the herd every day; individual records are rarely maintained. Given such a situation, motivating the farm owners to take up computerized farm recording would be a major challenge.


4.3 Lack of computer awareness
With the computer becoming omnipresent from primary schools to financial institutions, this factor is not such an insurmountable one, especially given the fact that most modern dairy farms are located in semi-urban areas.


4.4 Infrastructure requirements
A dust-free room and stable power with adequate backup are essential requirements. These should not be such a major encumbrance in any large-scale dairy farm.


5 Conclusions
Management of a dairy enterprise has always required versatile. Most dairy operations in India are too small to economically employ a person from each of these fields of expertise, but should hire consultant from areas, who can help in providing software or can help in developing computer programmes for specific uses at dairy farm. Herd management software is easy management, better reproductive efficiency in dairy farm and also increase profitability in dairy business venture. It’s also helpful in veterinary consultation to accurate diagnosis typical gynecological diseases.


6 Recommendations
Thus, simple, easy-to-use, efficient and cost-effective herd management software would greatly aid the manager of an organized dairy farm to make decisions based on real-time data as well as to analyze various parameters instantly, thus greatly increasing managerial effectiveness and profitability, and enabling him to manage larger herds. It is, therefore, imperative that leading veterinary institutions in India take the initiative in developing and popularizing herd management software.


The use of ICT to contribute to sustainable growth in livestock production in India is not a matter of providing computers and Internet connectivity or "computerization" of livestock research and development institutions. It is of developing effective information systems for planning and monitoring livestock development programs, improving livestock development programs, improving livestock services and enabling learning for capacity development that use ICT effectively and efficiently. This requires fresh policy formulations and clear strategies to use ICT to leverage growth in livestock production to benefit millions of smallholders who rear animals.
 

References
Parikh A., Keyur B., and Kanaiyalal P., 2010, ICT based cattle heat period, insemination and fertility management model, Fourth UKSim European Symposium on Computer Modeling and Simulation
 

Parkison S., and Ramirez R., 2006, Using a sustainable livelihood approaches to assessing the impact of ICTs in development, The Journal of Community Informatics
http://ci-journal.net/index.php/ciej/article./view/310 
 

Ramkumar S., Garforth C., Rao S.V.N. and Heffernan C., 2007, Design and formative evaluation of an information kiosk on cattle health for landless cattle owners, Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, 13(1):7-22
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13892240601162007
 

Saravanakumar V., 2009, Evolving milk pricing model for agribusiness centres: an econometric approach, Agricultural Economics Research Review, 22: 155-160

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