Charles Sturt University research is focusing on dairy farmers and how they make decisions as part of a $3.5 million collaborative project to better manage clinical mastitis.
The Clinical Mastitis Decision Support Tool project aims to build a digital tool to help farmers and vets make better decisions in managing mastitis treatments to reduce the use of antibiotics and improve animal health – think a ‘My Health Record’ for cows powered by artificial intelligence.
It’s a three-year collaboration between Dairy Australia, Coles, DataGene, the Food Agility Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), University of Sydney, University of Technology Sydney and Charles Sturt.
Mastitis is the number one health issue in dairy cows, costing the industry $150 million annually, and is responsible for two-thirds of the antibiotics supplied to dairy farmers by vets.
The Charles Sturt team of Graham Centre member Associate Professor Jane Heller and Dr Emma Scholz from the School of Agricultural, Veterinary and Environmental Sciences is responsible for the farmer-facing aspects of the project.
Professor Heller said their expertise in veterinary epidemiology and social research aims to ensure that farmers’ needs, and perspectives are central.
“This project’s objective is to create practical, useful tools for dairy farmers that they can use to reduce antibiotic use in their herd while maintaining animal health and farm profitability,” Professor Heller said.
“Our research will provide a richer understanding of how farmers actually make decisions on the ground, as well as the motivations and barriers for changing practice.”
While this project is focused on the dairy industry Dr Scholz hopes the knowledge gained could be applied to tackling similar issues in other industries.
“This project could provide a model for other settings and industries by harnessing cutting edge technology, employing high level animal health expertise and grounding projects in the contexts of end-users,” Dr Scholz said.
“It is an exciting, multidisciplinary team collaborating on a challenging, complex problem. “