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4 suggestions when adopting new technology

Progressive Dairyman Editor Walt Cooley Published on 31 December 2014

Just about one year ago, I opined on this page that the dairy industry’s rate of adoption for new technology was slow.

At the time, we started an experiment to observe dairy producers test-driving a few hand-picked new technologies to see just how easy it was for forward-thinking, tech-savvy dairy managers to adopt them.

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We appreciate all who participated, especially the companies who trusted their products and services enough to put them on public display. The producers’ decisions on whether or not to keep the products can be found here .

Here are four suggestions about how to approach a decision to adopt new technology on your own dairy based on observing the participants of our “technology test drive,” as we have called it.

1. Just because you could use it doesn’t mean you will use it.

Trying to match a dairy producer to a technology that will benefit him or her is not easy. The participating companies and I put careful thought into whom to match with their technologies.

Throughout the process when I received updates about a producer who we thought was a perfect candidate for a new technology but was having difficulty, I got a bit discouraged. Yes, new technologies can save you time and money, but you’ve also got to be comfortable with them, they can’t just make life more automated.

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This was illustrated in a producer’s response to a presentation I gave last year at World Ag Expo. When I was done suggesting a unique way to receive triggered alerts about temperature and humidity changes on your farm, one producer said: “Why don’t you just look outside at the thermometer instead of doing all that?”

Of course, his way would work, despite being the most manual way of doing it. I told him if that’s what he preferred, he should do it. The same applies to new technology. If you’re not comfortable with it, then it doesn’t matter how much it will save you, you’re likely not going to use it.

2. You’ll likely overestimate how much time and attention you can give to something new.

All of our producer participants gave a commitment to sincerely try each of the technologies they received. But they all had the same limited resource as everyone else – time.

In their own way each modified their expectations for how much they could personally give to their product trials after the test-drive started. They, of course, still had a dairy to run and cows to make sure were milked.

My suggestion if you’re considering a new technology: Imagine how much time you personally plan to dedicate to its implementation or how much you imagine will get done in the time you plan to give it, and then cut it in half. Can you still see the technology being successful on that rationed amount of time? Chances are you’re overestimating how smoothly things will go.

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3. Companies will likely underestimate how much hand-holding you’ll need.
Maybe this tendency exists because companies trust that producers themselves will follow through on as much as they commit to. See point No. 2. When that doesn’t happen, it can leave a gap between expectations and reality. I’m confident companies could fill these gaps, if they just realized they will exist. You should ask for a detailed plan of how the company will help after a sale is made.

4. Data is just data without someone to analyze it for you.
Most of the new technologies appearing today promise to monitor your herd so you can manage it better. The problem is that these monitors’ language is data, you know 1’s and 0’s. Data is just pretzel sticks and doughnut holes unless someone can analyze it for you.

Remember, you’re a producer that starts early in the morning doing a lot of things that could be tracked. At the end of the day, the last thing you’re going to feel like doing is going back through it all in a different language to sort, file and analyze the trail you left behind.

The most savvy new technology adapters are adding consultants to their team to analyze the data trail and make suggestions for improvements. It’s a bit unrealistic to think you’re going to be able to or even want to do that all by yourself. PD

  • Walt Cooley

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