Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Easing dairy life with computers

Growing up on a dairy farm near Cobram and working with farmers throughout Australia made David Chandler realise a lot could be done to make farmers’ lives easier.

LAURA GRIFFIN February 5, 2013 4:04am

David Chandler with one of his automated drafting gates.

Growing up on a dairy farm near Cobram and working with farmers throughout Australia made David Chandler realise a lot could be done to make farmers’ lives easier.

A largely self-taught computer programmer, Mr Chandler began by writing herd management computer software. He wanted the software to be easy to use and able to cover every aspect of dairy herd management.

It was a bigger task than he thought and took more than 1000 hours across two years to get Easy Dairy ready. Eleven years later, more than 2000 farms use the program to manage their herd.

Six years ago, the company started developing dairy automation equipment, including automatic sorting gates, in-shed identification and feeding systems, milk metering and cow activity monitors for automatic heat detection.

All of the design, computer programming, electronics and steel work are at Easy Dairy Automation Systems’ Shepparton factory with seven staff.

‘‘Producing the products ourselves gives us greater control and allows us to adapt our products to farmers’ needs quickly while keeping costs down,’’ Mr Chandler said.

He said improving dairy farm efficiencies by reducing labour, feed costs and human error were the main reasons farmers moved to automation.

‘‘To sort cows, farmers no longer need to have someone opening and closing gates. Using a touch screen, farmers easily select which cows they want to catch. The system identifies the cows to be sorted and automatically sorts them,’’ Mr Chandler said.

‘‘The in-shed identification system uses touch screen displays and voice alerts in the dairy to instantly provide vital information to operators such as milk withhold and treatment requirements.

‘‘The system also improves feed utilisation and production by individually feeding cows.’’

Mr Chandler and his team have a number of projects at the design or prototype stage, including a cow activity meter that measures an animal’s movement each hour. If a cow is more active than normal, it could be on heat, and if it is less active than normal, it could be unwell.

‘‘We’ve looked at competing products from overseas and we’ve tried to engineer around their shortcomings. For example, most products can only be read as cows enter the dairy, our prototype can be read from the paddock, this allows real time monitoring of the herd.’’

Mr Chandler hopes the activity meter will be commercially available this year. He plans to apply for a Victorian Government innovation skills voucher to help refine and market the product.

Companies or publicly-funded research organisations can apply for a maximum of $10000 under the innovation skills voucher.

The grant can be used by Victorian companies to develop innovation-relevant skills or by Victorian publicly funded research organisations to improve their capability and capacity to engage with companies.

The company also hopes to develop calf-feeders and in-paddock feeders this year.

10X Goulburn Valley coach Craig Potter said the voucher supported companies looking to improve their competitiveness and productivity.

Mr Potter said 10X Goulburn Valley was an accredited supplier of the innovation skills voucher.

Other innovators are invited to an information session about accessing government funding for businesses this month.

Metzke and Allen Accounting, Business Strategies International and 10X Goulburn Valley will host the two-hour presentation ‘Everything You Need To Know About Getting the Government to Fund Your Business’ at The Parklake, 481 Wyndham St, Shepparton on February 20 from 5.30pm.

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