Dashboard puts dairy in control
When it comes to visualizing the impact of potential change on your dairy, David Galligan has gadgets galore.
But what the University of Pennsylvania animal health economics professor offered to Colorado producers recently was in the form of software rather than tool chest hardware. He has created a “dashboard” of dials and gauges that help dairy producers determine the potential costs — and other factors — of making changes to their operations.
“It was inspired by the Triumph restorations I do,” he explains. The Triumph dashboards are full of dials and gauges, and that’s what I wanted to use to show producers how and what changing inputs may do in terms of results on cost, returns and other factors.”
While it might require another thousand words to describe exactly what Galligan’s Dairy Dashboard really does, it would be best for the reader to go to his Web site, www.dgalligan.com, and simply click on the dashboard to understand the program.
But while you can sign in as “guest,” and get into the system using “guest” as the password, you may want to hurry for the free show. It won’t be long, he says, before the university will start charging a fee for using Dairy Dashboard, in an effort to bolster budgets.
Galligan’s visual analytics represent a new format to help measure problems commonly occurring in dairy herds, and provides a long list of tools with which to work. There is a “General” category of sites, which provides help on subjects such as disease frequency and lactation curves. Under the “Economic” category, you can work up information using your dairy parameters on topics such as 3X milking, what it means in dollars and production when you add a cow, and a general dairy finance tool.
• Dairy Dashboard is a computer program measuring input results.
• The program is free for now but may charge users in the next year.
• Producers simply change inputs and watch the dial register results.
Other categories offered cover reproduction, nutrition and epidemiology.
Galligan’s main message to producers is that “all decisions should be evaluated using principles and concepts of marginality.” The Web site offers tools to address this issue, he adds.
“All strategies [cost control and production improvements] should be pursued and require active managerial oversight,” he told the Colorado Dairy Nutrition Conference in Greeley, Colo., in January, where he displayed his Dairy Dashboard.
“A lot of problems surrounding a cow involve management,” he says. “It goes well beyond the physical aspect of the cow. A cow is a series of cash flows and associated management decisions.”
Producers should take caution, he adds, “not to pursue strategies, which reduce cost, but also which reduce volume of production.” Using the dials and gauges of the Dairy Dashboard might help growers realize where errors could be made.
The Dashboard can help growers discover the impact of producing “one more pound of milk,” explains Galligan, which is “probably one of the most important factors” in dairy decision-making.
Dairy producers “must aggressively pursue new technology,” he says.
The Web site helps determine the results of applying new technology. While using the non-downloadable program remains free, within a year the cost of access could be $200 to $300, a fee which the university feels compelled to apply to offset a recent 30% budget cut, he notes.
This article published in the March, 2010 edition of WESTERN FARMER-STOCKMAN.