A new research project launched by VikingGenetics enables how much feed a cow consumes can now be measured with the use of Artificial Intelligence and 3D cameras. With this data, farmers can select for more feed efficient and climate friendly cows. The total budget for the project is 3 million Euros granted by different entities participating on it.
To ensure your cows are healthy, fertile, resilient, productive and climate friendly, it is equally necessary that you have similar data on their feed intake.
Today, we know the composition of the feed, but so far, the amount of feed that each cow consumes has so far only been possible to measure on experimental farms with expensive equipment. In VikingGenetics' research project, the amount of feed that a cow consumes is measured with 3D cameras. The research includes the development of more affordable technology. Analyses of the collected data on cows' weight, feed intake and milk production will contribute to identifying which cows have the most efficient energy intake. The overall goal is to create clear management strategies to improve dairy farming.
The project has a total budget of 3 million Euro and has recently been granted 1.8 million Euro by the Danish Innovation Found.
“The potential of this project is huge and can change the entire mindset on how to fit the cows in a modern cattle production” says Jan Lassen, MSc., PhD, and Senior Research Manager at VikingGenetics. “With the 3D cameras we will provide more objective monitoring of the cows, better feed efficiency per cow, improvements in daily operations and a more resource efficient production”, he adds.
“We use 3D cameras and artificial intelligence to identify the cows, estimate their weight, and quantify how much they eat. A more efficient production will also benefit the climate through less methane emissions.”, Søren Borchersen, Chief Research & Development Officer, VikingGenetics, explains.
Last year, the Nordic Cattle Breeding Evaluation (NAV) released a Saved Feed Index. The current research with 3D cameras will complement the breeding values for that index. Experimental data shows that the cows that are most efficient at feeding feed also emit less methane. Therefore, if you can identify and breed the most feed-efficient animals, there is a financial and climate benefit.
Besides VikingGenetics, the project has also the participation of the University of Aarhus, which calculates feed efficiency and genetics; the Agriculture and Food Innovation Department SEGES, responsible for the implementation of software by the farmers, and the consultancy SIMHERD A/S, which provides tools for calculating the project's economic value.
Sustainable milk production
VikingGenetics will use the recorded data to rank the Viking bulls to ensure that the best genes are passed on. As such, the offspring will be even more resource efficient than the previous generation. There are 1.5 billion cows worldwide, and VikingGenetics hopes that the project will strengthen the company’s market position and assure the Nordic countries even more on the world map for sustainable milk production.
“Having individual feed intake records on commercial dairy farms can be a game-changer in modern dairy cattle management. It is something we have always dreamt about,” says Professor Nic Frigens, MoSAR, French National Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE), one of the international partners in the project.
Professor Guilherme Rosa from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA, also a partner in the project, agrees: “Research wise, this type of data opens up completely new opportunities and makes it possible to study the complexity related to feed efficiency and climate impact in a whole new way”.
Facts about the project
The project is funded by the GRAND SOLUTION programme by Innovations fund Denmark as well as the partners in the project.
- Innovation Fund grant: EURO 1.8 million.
- Total budget: EURO 3.0 million
- Duration: Four years
About the project partners
VikingGenetics is a world's leading provider of innovative and sustainable solutions for cattle breeding. The company is owned by 20,000 dairy and beef farmers in Denmark, Sweden and Finland, and supplies bull semen to farmers in more than 50 countries around the world. A unique combination of breeding programs that, since the 1980s, have focused on both health and production, has helped make VkingGenetics a market leader in the Nordic region and a strong international force.
Grand Solutions - Innovation Fund Denmark invest in the best research and innovation projects with the potential to create knowledge, growth and employment in Denmark.
The University of Aarhus participates through its Department of Quantitative Genetics and Department of Animal Science. Both institutes are world renowned for their research in animal genetics and livestock production and nutrition, respectively.
SEGES is the Danish Agriculture and Food Innovation Department. They provide solutions for Danish agriculture and implement the latest research at farms in Denmark.
SIMHERD is a consultancy that develops and uses strategic and operational decision-making tools for cattle breeders.