AI dairy simulator teaches next generation of dairyfarmers

Kiara Stacey
By Kiara Stacey
Updated April 26 2022 - 1:19pm, first published 6:32am

An artificial cow is hoped to help reduce the pressure of workforce shortages in artificial inseminination technicians in the dairy sector.

The $15,000 simulated cow, named Henryetta, will be used for tafeSA's accredited artificial insemination training in the South East and on the Fleurieu Peninsula.

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The cow was bought by the SA Dairyfarmers' Association through the SA Dairy Industry Fund and is on permanent loan to tafeSA for training purposes.

Dairy Australia technical and innovation manager John Penry has welcomed the use of the new technology.

"When you are teaching students something that involves manipulation of animals, especially larger animals, you need to take into account animal ethics and workplace health and safety to look after the safety of both animals and students," he said.

"Using the artificial cow lessens the amount of live animal training required and we see good outcomes from this mixed training."

Mr Penry said approximately 90 per cent of dairy farms used AI and the majority of the herd would have one or more matings in 12 months.

Dairyfarmer Perrin Hicks, Mount Compass, milks 700 cows across two herds and uses mostly AI.

"We employ a technician for our synchronization program and return heats we mate ourselves," he said.

I can see a couple of benefits - the main one obviously being animal welfare.

"Students obviously not having much of an idea can take a little bit of time to get it right, which can be uncomfortable for the cow, so there is benefits there.

"And the other one would be the ability to train younger staff that we would definitely like to teach.

"The future the dairy industry relies on artificial insemination and the way the industry is moving forward with sexed semen I think it is heaps of benefits with as many staff as we can to have trained to artificially inseminate a cow."

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SA Dairyfarmers' Association chief executive officer Andrew Curtis said the challenge they faced most was an aging dairy farming population who were less inclined to learn new skills.

"So we need to train new people on farms to be able to do the AI - a cow will provide that opportunity," he said.

"The key thing about our dairy industry is that we are committed to the highest standards of animal husbandry and animal welfare.

"Having this artificial cow means that we can train people to a high standard without the risk of subjecting animals to various welfare standards through exposure to trainees."

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SA Dairy Industry Fund executive officer Tom Cosentino said the artificial cow was a great example of how the fund could benefit the industry.

"AI is a big part of the dairy industry, it's a tough skill and we want to ensure that people are trained appropriately," he said.

"We've invested in the technology because we want to do all we can to get skilled workers in our industry.

"It allows tafeSA to deliver the course safely and the cow is portable, so there's the flexibility to move it around and provide training where it's needed."

TafeSA's senior lecturer in agriculture Mark Thompson said artificial insemination was a critical skill for the dairy industry and the training program was run in partnership with farmers and industry.

"There's demand for the skills but it's important to balance that need with animal safety," he said.

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"We'll now be using the simulated cow for part of the training.

"It has a transparent side so the trainer can see what the student is doing and guide them in how to effectively complete the procedure."

Mr Thompson says tafeSA's course was not for professional technicians but was a starting point for those who wanted to go onto further study and for farmers who wanted to develop the skills to use on their properties.

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Kiara Stacey

Kiara Stacey

Journalist

Journalist for Stock Journal. Kiara was in classified sales at Stock Journal before joining the editorial team. Kiara completed a Bachelor of Communication (journalism) at Deakin University in 2020.

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