Wisconsin dairy farmers lean on creativity, innovation

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Some Wisconsin dairy farmers are crediting creativity and investments in innovation for their success after seeing hundreds of peers leave the industry last year.

Laura Daniels, who farms near Dodgeville, told WUWM-FM that her farm has been working to determine better breeding choices. Daniels' farm evaluates butter-fat and protein in the milk to select "the mothers of the next generation of cows" that make the best quality cheese.

Luke Lisowe and his parents own about 800 cows at their farm near Malone in Fond du Lac County. Lisowe said the farm is looking to cut costs. Many dairy farmers in the state have suffered years of low milk prices and rising trucking costs .

Lisowe said the farm uses a less expensive cow sanitizer before and after milking to keep each cow's stall clean. But he said the cost-saving practice takes up time.

"If you have a cleaner stall, there should be less of a bacteria or less chance of infection. But it takes more time to bed," he said. "You have a lot of stalls to bed and everything takes time, and that's not the only thing you're doing throughout the day."

Fennimore dairy farmer Peter Winch bought four robotic milker units last year for his 240 cows. Each machine can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but Winch said the milkers give his family a break and reduce his reliance on workers.

"The cows just do it," Winch said. "They're on their own schedule."

Some dairy scientists are working to make more data available to farmers on their cows, feed and other factors.

University of Wisconsin-Madison professor Victor Cabrera wants to help farmers make better decisions through his project called Dairy Brain , which would collect and integrate data from all parts of the farm operation, then use artificial intelligence to analyze the findings and help farmers make smarter management decisions.

His team hopes the online system will be available later this year.

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