RFID Joins the Herd

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), a wireless automatic identification and data capture method is being rolled out on Indian dairy farms to boost productivity by providing accurate data about milk producing animals. We have already seen the benefits big data can generate for various industries, such as finance, healthcare and retail. Now, precision dairy farming is gaining popularity due to the availability of technologies like RFID tags and sensors.

Increasing Dairy Yields
India may be among the world leaders in dairy production, but it lags behind even developing nations when it comes to efficiency in this market. Indian buffalos yield approximately 1,200 liters per lactation cycle whereas in the US, average production floats around 10 to 11 thousand liters per cycle. To achieve internationally high levels of milk production, India has a massive number of animals in the dairy milk chain.

Chitale Dairy, an Indian dairy producer, started utilizing RFID to increase production and efficiencies in multiple ways for India’s cattle industry. The organization now has tagged over 10,000 animals and hopes to increase milk yields while simultaneously decreasing the number of cows and buffaloes, which would help sustain the industry and reduce the strain on the environment (decrease methane production and the need for potable water to hydrate animals).

Personalized Care
A miniscule microchip is attached to every animal, sending valuable data to a radio sensor and collected in a digital database. The technology helps collect up-to-date information regarding an animal’s daily feeding habits, dietary requirements, vaccination history or de-worming needs. This data is sent to computer systems at Chitale Dairy’s offices and kept alongside a complete medical and progeny history of each animal.

The data and sensors work in conjunction to improve each animal’s productivity. For instance, if a buffalo has already been fed sufficiently for the day, the feeding machine’s sensor and the buffalo’s tag will communicate that information to deny food from the machine the next time the animal approaches the feeder to munch some more. Overeating can cause serious health issues in cattle just like eating too little can lead to weight loss and other problems. RFID technology helps overcome these concerns.

Data for Farmers
Farmers can connect with Chitale Dairy’s call center and ask information about a particular animal by providing the tag number. Chitale also sends a daily to-do list in the morning to farmers for each animal in their possession. This to-do list is generated after an analysis of the data accumulated from RFID signals.

Another advantage Chitale Dairy’s system offers to farmers is access to all this information through a cloud based web service and an app that can be downloaded on their phones. When farmers want to trade animals, they can view all this data before deciding to go ahead with a purchase or sale, giving the data a lot of value.

Big Data Outlook
In spite of the advantages big data is bringing to dairy industry, it may not be achieving all it can. The data provided by RFID systems needs to be analyzed by farmers who are generally already constrained for time. Farmers have to spend time daily looking at the information available and adapting their activities to what the data is communicating to them.

The dairy industry has already started on its path to becoming a high-tech industry. As more technologies are integrated like automated milking systems, which gather daily milk samples from each cow, big data and RFID systems will become even more critical as farmers will need a platform to integrate all this data and provide actionable plans and decision-making tools for farmers.