Estimating the effect of different work practices and technologies on labor efficiency within pasture-based dairy systems
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CitationC. Hogan, J. Kinsella, B. O'Brien, A. Markey, M. Beecher, Estimating the effect of different work practices and technologies on labor efficiency within pasture-based dairy systems, Journal of Dairy Science, Volume 105, Issue 6, 2022, Pages 5109-5123, ISSN 0022-0302, https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2021-21216.
AbstractHerd size expansion combined with the seasonal workload on pasture-based dairy farms has led to an increased focus on techniques that can improve farm labor efficiency such as work practices and technologies. The objective of this study was to identify the work practices and technologies associated with labor efficiency of particular tasks, and estimate the time savings that could be made through their implementation during the period of peak labor input on spring-calving dairy farms. Data from an existing labor time-use study, completed from February 1 to June 30, 2019 (150 d), on 76 Irish dairy farms was used in conjunction with a survey on work practice and technology implementation. One hundred ten work practices and technologies were included in the initial survey, and of these, 59 were found to have an association with labor efficiency for their respective tasks. Best practice, regarding labor efficiency, was identified for the 59 work practices and technologies. An accumulation score was compiled for work practice and technology implementation; each farm received one point for each work practice or technology implemented. On average, farms implemented 31 labor-efficient work practices and technologies (ranging from 10–45). The most labor-efficient 25% of farms implemented a greater number of work practices and technologies (n = 37) than the least labor-efficient 25% of farms (n = 25). Multiple regression models estimated that each additional work practice or technology implemented would improve farm labor efficiency by 0.6 h/cow. Additionally, backward-regression models were used to predict the labor-savings associated with the most important work practices and technologies. Labor-savings were estimated for 12 significant individual work practices and technologies, of which 5 were related to milking, 4 to calf care, 2 to cow care, and one to grassland management. The work practices and technologies that offered the largest labor-savings included having one person in the milking pit during the mid-lactation period (−3.04 h/cow), having automatic cluster removers present (−2.55 h/cow) and contracting slurry spreading (−1.78 h/cow). This study focused on the variety of labor-efficient work practices and technologies available and highlighted those that farmers should focus on to improve labor efficiency. The results indicated that there is scope for improvement in the adoption of labor-saving work practices and technologies on many farms. The positive effect of implementing the identified labor-saving techniques on labor efficiency could be used to support future adoption.
FunderDairy Research Ireland
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