Dairy farmers are under growing pressure about the environmental impacts of their dairy operations as well as the economic implications of running a business. However, assessing the trade-offs between environmental and economic performance through field experimentation is not practical or feasible due to being time-consuming and costly.
A faster and reliable alternative is the use of mathematical modeling. Mathematical models allow us to perform such a task through input-output accounting analysis, incorporating most of the complex interactions among the main components of the dairy production system.
Although highly elaborate models and tools capable of simulating dairy farm environmental and economic outcomes (like the Ruminant Farm Systems model) already exist, there are no support tools to reach decision makers in a user friendly manner. Most of the existing tools require large amounts of data and great efforts to set up and calibrate, and their results are not straightforward to understand and interpret. They are research oriented and simply overwhelming for the decision maker to use without the guidance of specialists. Thus, they are not conducive to practical farm use.
As such, with support from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Dairy Innovation Hub, we are developing a farmer oriented, simple-to-use, highly intuitive tool we call EZ Dairy Enviro-Money. It will provide a high-level assessment of whole-farm nutrient balance, greenhouse gas emissions, and economic performance. Input data will rely on the farmer's mental recollection.
The tool would be set up and run in a few minutes, and it would be able to generate reports from scenario analyses almost instantaneously. Results will include key performance indicators and related improvement opportunity indicators assessed by comparison with benchmarks collected from the literature or other reliable sources.
Providing this next-generation, intuitive tool will create an engaged and captive target audience ready and willing to continue the journey for deeper understanding and consequential changes for better with regard to both environmental and economic aspects. Stay tuned for EZ Dairy Enviro-Money, which will be available through the University of Wisconsin-Dairy Management website by early next year.