With the increasing pressure for dairy farms to meet new sustainable benchmarks, scientists in the Cornell CALS department of Animal Science seek innovative ways to help farmers reach these goals. Julio Giordano, associate professor of Animal Science, sees technological advancements to better dairy cattle reproduction and health as a direct solution.
As the Director of the Dairy Cattle Biology and Management Laboratory in the Cornell CALS Department of Animal Science, Giordano’s research focuses on the goal to increase dairy farmers’ profit by bettering the health and productivity of their herd. To Giordano and his team, the best way to accomplish this is through the integration of technology and dairy farming practices. “The health and reproductive potential of a herd is critical to farmers’ agricultural and financial success,” says Giordano.
A hallmark of Giordano’s research is his commitment to integrating technology with cow reproduction and health in a way that is accessible to farmers. “By using technologies to monitor behavioral and physiological markers of reproductive success and good health, farmers can successfully identify cows that are productive members of their herd.”
Merging technology and agriculture, Giordano also serves as an associate director of the Cornell Institute for Digital Agriculture (CIDA) – an interdisciplinary community of leaders across Cornell in areas of expertise ranging from the life sciences to engineering and computing science. CIDA is committed to finding practical solutions that increase the sustainability of farming practices. The institute prioritizes outreach to educate and influence farmers, agricultural policy makers, and industry workers on new advancements to increase agricultural sustainability and prosperity.
The boots on the ground component of Giordano’s research is critical to keeping science grounded in real world practices that will benefit farmers as they work towards more sustainable and efficient agricultural practices. To achieve this, Giordano’s lab combines their work with the Dairy Unit of the Cornell University Ruminant Center along with cooperation from commercial dairies in NY state and around the US.
“Not only do these facilities allow us to apply technologies to a large number of cows, it gives farmers firsthand experience in using and critiquing these tools. We want to ensure our tools provide the most benefit possible to actual agricultural practices,” says Giordano.
Giordano's research group develops and implements novel devices and data-driven solutions for herd management. Devices to automate or enhance human capacity for accomplishing labor intensive and cow-disruptive daily tasks such as synchronization of ovulation, detection of estrus, and pregnancy diagnosis are under development and being evaluated under commercial farms conditions.
Digital Ag Devices
Aside from his efforts in applied research, students within the Department of Animal Science gain first hand training on digital agriculture technologies through courses related to dairy cattle reproduction and herd management.
Giordano’s courses in Reproductive Physiology and Management of Dairy Cattle and Dairy Herd Management aim to teach students about current and future technologies used in dairy farming. Students participate in laboratory sessions at the Cornell Teaching Dairy Barn or in the classroom, gaining hands-on experience with the latest hardware and software tools for herd reproductive and general monitoring and management.
Through a unique collaboration designed with colleagues in Cornell’s Computer Science Department, Giordano's students in Dairy Herd Management work with teams of students from a Cloud Computing course on the development of data-driven solutions for dairy farms.
"Our goal is to help our students build a broad, transdisciplinary skillset and develop the interpersonal skills needed for striving in a new era of technology and data-driven livestock farming,” says Giordano.
Through a combination of laboratory work, applied research, and educating the next generation of agriculturalists, Giordano’s lab is representative of a bright future for agriculture and dairy.
Catherine Andreadis '22 is a student writer for the Cornell CALS Department of Animal Science.
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