Value determines technology uptake

Trudy and Matthew Holmes.

By Brian Dela Rue

31 August 2018


When farmers can see the value, practicality and people- benefits of technology, they’re more likely to take it on board. DairyNZ’s Brian Dela Rue summarises our latest farmer survey results which reveal what technologies farmers are using, how that’s changed over time and where to from here.

Technology options for farmers have been expanding rapidly and they will only continue  to increase. To provide accurate insights into actual technology uptake  on-farm,  DairyNZ has conducted  three  five-yearly  surveys  of 500 farmers: in 2008, 2013 and 2018. Here’s a snapshot of this year’s survey results.|

Automation technologies are hitting all the right buttons

Most notable over the last decade  is  investment  in technologies that automate current tasks, making milking easier and more labour-efficient. Some are now well-established, particularly in rotary dairies where nearly  90  percent  have  at least one of these three technologies: automatic cup removers, automatic drafting, or in-shed feeding. As milking-related tasks alone account for more than 30 hours per week on average, increased labour efficiency reducing hours of work will  help attract and retain skilled people.

Rotaries run rings around herringbones for labour efficiency

Compared with herringbone dairies, rotaries were generally newer (17 versus 29 years old), larger  (48  versus  28  sets  of cups), milked more cows (614 versus 319 cows), had significantly higher throughput (254 versus 157 cows milked per hour) and   had more technologies. Labour efficiency was also higher for rotaries, at 161 cows milked/person/hour, compared with 90

for herringbone dairies. Rotary dairies are well suited to milking larger herds and installation of some technologies,  but  come with a much higher build cost.

Rotaries with a combination of automatic cup removers, teat spraying and drafting, milked 193 cows/person/hour: that’s 58 more cows/person/hour than rotaries without this combination.

Slow uptake of info technologies

Investment in information technologies such as milk meters, stock weighers and detection systems remains low, installed in less than 20 percent of rotary and less than five percent of herringbone dairies. It’s a big ask to develop affordable and accurate sensor-based systems that  are robust enough for on-farm use. To have value, data must lead to improved decisions, which often requires data from multiple sensors to be integrated.

What’s working well for farmers?

The three technologies that herringbone operators were most satisfied with were cup removers,  fully  automated plant wash systems and teat spraying. For rotary operators,   it was in-shed feeding, drafting and cup removers.

What will the next five years bring?

Farmers indicated a continued investment in the commonly-used automation technologies is likely as is a gradual increase in information technologies. We expect that recently-launched innovations for automated pasture measurement as well as new farm-wide low-cost battery- powered sensors and networks to also make an impact in our next five-yearly survey. Overall, the value, practicality and benefits of technology will determine farmers’ enthusiasm for embracing any new technologies on-farm.


A snapshot of the results from DairyNZ’s 2018 Farmer Survey

Brian Dela Rue

Check out a full summary of the 2018 survey in the new ‘dairies and technologies’ section of



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