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Mitigating challenges in milk production

The future of dairy farming
In our increasingly competitive world, dairy farmers have a tough yet fascinating job that spans multiple disciplines. To ensure Australia’s dairy supply, farmers must look to create efficiencies in the production process.
Professor Yani Garcia

Milk production is a complex procedure. To run a successful dairy farm a number of agricultural factors need to be considered, then nurtured and refined. With an estimated value of $10billion to the Australian economy each year, dairy farming is a process worth finetuning.

Professor of Dairy Science and Director of the Dairy Research FoundationSergio (Yani) Garcia is investigating the burdens of dairy farmers and coming up with novel technologies to improve output.   

“I’m focused on addressing the key pressures that Australian dairy farmers are facing and will increasingly face in the future, namely competition for land and water use, labour cost and availability, and the increasing interest from the general public that the food they consume is both environmental and animal-friendly,” said Garcia.

“My research has since evolved from developing new and intensified pasture-based systems that combine pasture and double and triple forage crop rotations, to the co-development of automatic milking (robotic) options for large herd farms in Australia.

“More recently I’ve been looking into the use and application of data, technology and automation to increase efficiency and solve day to day problems in the production of milk.” 

With a strong background in agriculture, Garcia understands the complexity of dairy farming and the skill required to be successful. 

 

Milk production is the most multidisciplinary system of all animal-derived food. It combines animal, soils, pasture, crops, and highly specialised technology to harvest the milk. It also requires skilled labour and smart farmers.
Professor Yani Garcia

“I’ve always found dairy farming fascinating. Especially because pasture based dairy farming poses a lot of additional challenges, some that people perceive as unsolvable. 

“Solving the unsolvable (or at least trying to) motivates me.” 

And being able to solve problems related to such an essential, nutrient-rich product seems like a pretty good cause. 

“Milk is arguably the most complete natural product. It has evolved over 160 million years (as a secretion of the mammary gland of mammals) and it is paramount for a well-balanced diet, particularly in children and the elderly,” explained Garcia. 

“Work that helps dairy farmers to keep producing this fantastic natural product will clearly have a positive impact on the community.”

Garcia is also motivated by the vision established at the dairy science group and the Sydney Institute of Agriculture which is to produce 3H milk: healthy milk, from healthy cows in healthy production systems.  

“By making better use of dairy D.A.T.A (data, advanced technology and automation) our research will help people living on the Sydney Basin (the most populated area and the one with the highest growth rate) to get high quality milk from healthy production systems that can guarantee the milk comes from both animal and environmentally friendly production systems.”

In addition to his academic appointments and achievements, Yani was also a project leader and project supervisor at FutureDairy, a national research and development program that wrapped up in 2017. Garcia was instrumental in advancing dairy farming, mentoring research students, and establishing world-first technologies.  

“Running from 2004 to 2017 the program produced over 100 scientific papers, 15 HDR students and thousands of media hits,” said Garcia.

“In one phase of this project we developed and tested intensified pasture-based systems that today remain, to the best of my knowledge, the highest productivity of milk per hectare from the feed grown on farm. 

“FutureDairy was also widely known for the development of voluntary traffic pasture based robotic systems, where cows can come and go to get milked when they wish. 

“This system was developed in Europe for cows kept indoors, but our research was pioneering worldwide and demonstrated that the same principles can be effectively applied in grazing conditions.  

“Moreover, we co-developed an advanced robotic technology (AMR) with research partner DeLaval (a Swedish based manufacturer of milking machines and milking robots). This co-development led us to be finalist of the Eureka prize a few years ago.”

Professor Garcia is internationally recognised for his publications in top international journals in the area of pasture-based dairy systems, grazing and feeding of the dairy cow, forage production and utilisation as well as robotic milking.  

He has more than 130 peer-reviewed publications in journals and conference proceedings and has supervised dozens of research theses. 

Since 2014, he has been Associate Editor of the European journal Grass and Forage Science. He has attracted more than A$16 million in research and infrastructure income to the University since 2004, consolidating the Dairy Science group.