Digital Dairy Chain

Joining forces sees new digital technology get real on farm
The Genocells kit.

A first-of-its-kind ‘Digitalisation Demonstrator’ is highlighting how joining forces across the industry is bringing innovation-led growth to improve supply chain efficiency.

The industry collaboration is part of the Digital Dairy Chain, a UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) funded project.

National dairy co-operative First Milk is leading the project and has already brought digital innovation to its members’ farms in Cumbria and South West Scotland.

The project is summarised in the below video:


First Milk’s Toni Bruce commented: “Our members are always looking for the better way by embracing new technology on their farms.

“Our interest in the Genocells technology came initially from looking at improved welfare as a component of farm sustainability but it supports a range of herd management decisions from infection control to breeding plans.

“Greater insight into an individual cow’s genetic potential can improve feed use efficiency and reduce environmental impact. We are delighted to be a project partner and ultimately benefiting the wider dairy industry.”

Digital Dairy Chain’s Programme Manager, Stuart Martin added: “It is so exciting to see the results of our first Digitalisation Demonstrator. The collaboration partners have identified a challenge and worked together to find a solution. We look forward to seeing it being integrated across the industry.”

First Milk members are the first British farmers to use the ‘Genocells’ technology to report individual somatic cell counts from a single bulk milk sample using genomic information of the cows in the herd.

Using genetics to target important traits is central to First Milk member Fraser Purdie’s herd management. So, not surprisingly, he was attracted to the technology by the dual benefits of individual somatic cell counts and breeding potential derived from its genomic data.

He is particularly impressed with its accuracy: “From the very first month, I knew I was onto something when the lab phoned to find out why a specific cow’s milk was missing from the tank! And the tests have continued to improve.

“Last month, for example, the top 20 cows for cell counts listed on both the Genocells data and conventional milk recording were identical. Once I’ve studied all the data-recording systems fully, I’m keen to use Genocells alone.”

The Genocells technology has been brought to the UK from France under licence by collaboration partners NMR. Other organisations participating in the Digital Dairy Chain project are Lactalis UK & Ireland and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC). Lactalis UK & Ireland is continuing to secure additional participants from a wide range of farming systems, while SRUC supports the data evaluation.

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