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How SomaDetect is Boosting Dairy Productivity with AI-Powered Precision Farming

How SomaDetect is Boosting Dairy Productivity with AI-Powered Precision Farming

If you ask the average American if they’ve “got milk” at home, the answer is likely yes. Dairy production is one of the world’s most profitable commodities. But its farming practices have not always kept up with the technological advances made in other areas of the agricultural and farming sector. SomaDetect, a Canadian agtech company, is changing that. 

Founded in 2016, the company combines artificial intelligence (AI) and light-scattering technology for a new approach to precision farming. According to SomaDetect CEO Dr. Bethany Deshpande, the patented technology helps bolster the productivity and efficiency of a traditional dairy farm.

“Our farmers are the experts; they know what they are doing. This technology is about giving them real-time data to help them do that same job with even more insight and knowledge about their herd and the product being produced,” she explains. 

How AI Can Help Produce a Better Glass of Milk

The in-line technology behind SomaDetect uses a cow’s somatic cell count (SCC) as a key indicator of health and production quality. Deep-learning algorithms monitor for elevated levels of somatic cells, which can indicate disease or other health concerns. SomaDetect’s system flags these concerns as they occur, helping a farmer to address veterinary needs before a health condition becomes dire. 

“The insight helps farmers make more informed decisions. But it also helps them monitor every cow in their herds, ensuring the animals are healthy and producing high-quality milk for consumers,” says Deshpande. 

The system can also help identify a cow’s reproductive status, referred to in the industry as the animal’s pregnant or open status, in as few as three weeks after breeding. Herd managers need that advantage knowledge to make informed breeding decisions that directly impact a herd’s shared genetics, health, and performance.  

Dr. Roger Saltman, the former Chief Medical Officer (Dairy & Equine) at Zoetis, and an advisor and Consultant with SomaDetect, points out the economic value of optimizing a herd’s reproduction: “SomaDetect is helping herd managers to identify cows at high risk of being open at 18 days carrying a calf. This enables dairy farmers to optimize breeding protocols and make informed decisions for their herds.”

Finding a Place in Today’s Hardworking Dairy Farm

SomaDetect’s in-line monitoring equipment seamlessly integrates into existing milking lines and runs every time a cow is milked. Farms can avoid the high-ticket costs of new equipment or renovations and instead focus on producing a top-quality dairy product. It is also scalable, growing with a farm as its production increases. Approximately 15 farms in the United States and Canada already have SomaDetect technology installed. 

Dairy farmer Mike te Velde is one of them. According to te Velde, the system changed how he manages a herd of more than 3,600 cows. “The technology is like finding a needle in a haystack,” he explains. “It’s an operational, day-to-day tool we need that allows us to focus on the highest-SCC cows.” 

Company-sponsored research found that the farms using SomaDetect technology reported that bulk milk tank quality improved by up to 50 percent. Te Velde saw a similar phenomenon on his Colorado farm: “The impact was seen much faster than we anticipated. Our bulk tank SCC dropped significantly, even more than we initially thought possible.”

Powering the Future of Precision Farming

With 40,000 dairy farms and as many as 12 million cows across North America, the modern farmer is busy. The SomaDetect team sees technology as one of the most crucial strategies for keeping up. This is particularly true as the demand for food production is expected to increase 70 to 100 percent by 2050, according to the USDA.

“The right technology and tools can help farmers keep up with the growing demands of their farm and our society,” points out Deshpande. “But we know that rapid growth can put herd health and milk quality at risk. Precision farming technology like SomaDetect is helping farmers meet production goals without making sacrifices that could hurt their animals or product.”

Headquartered in Canada and New York State, SomaDetect is changing how North America approaches dairy farming. Learn more about the company’s precision farming technology at somadetect.com.  

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