The role of data ownership in animal health
By Tim Peart
The animal health industry is built upon relationships and trust. Producers have long-established ways of doing business and communicating among each other. Yet, data ownership is the cornerstone of modern business. It can unlock new insights that help us make better forecasting decisions for all facets of livestock production.
But a lot can go wrong with data, too. From bad actors in the industry to costly technology implementations, how do you know where the benefits of big data end and the gray area begins? Here are a couple of ways to think about how data can optimize your animal health operation -- along with the warning signs that a solution or partner might not be best for you.
Data by itself isn't insight
Data-driven decision making is an effective tool for any animal health business. When evaluating any piece of technology, consider how it will help you:
- Manage inventory and control costs at the producer level, with solutions from sophisticated inventory management to large-scale weighing, batching, and truck systems.
- Find efficiencies. Are you accurately making your rations with the correct ingredient makeup? How do changes in feeding times, frequency of feeding, etc. impact performance? Is feed manufacturing equipment functioning as it should? Do you have adequate manpower?
- Make predictions. Is now the right time to go to market? What is your actual break even? How did each lot perform and what return did you achieve? Should you continue to purchase animals from the same seller at the same price (or go higher or lower)? Proprietary data gives insights on break-even prices on cattle at any time, boosting confidence to make the correct buying and selling decisions for the operation.
- Track the health of production animals with interactive reporting, either at an individual animal level or across the entire operation. Animal health business owners rely on that knowledge to make decisions around treatments. End-to-end tracking lets you monitor medication from the moment it arrives until it is administered, right down to the specific technician. A holistic view of animal health comes out of each operation's unique data.
Understandably, data privacy is a concern. While a technology partner may use your data to develop innovative solutions or aggregate it for industry benchmarks, don't let the myth of competitive intelligence keep you from taking advantage of the analytics you can leverage to improve the health of your business.
What to be wary of: Technology partners that use your data to market services or solutions directly to your customers.
Don't underestimate the value of data aggregation
The best technology solution for an animal health business owner may well be a combination of solutions that allows you to mine the data you own to gain a more comprehensive picture of efficiencies, sales, and more.
For example, imagine gaining a holistic view of your equipment use to learn best practices around energy savings. If a certain motor, for example, could turn off two seconds earlier, the business would save so many hours of energy usage in a year. Such time savings can translate into financial and operational savings. Pairing that efficiency data with inventory information from the feed lot in a single dashboard—even if it comes from disparate systems — could be a game-changer in terms of how business owners make decisions.
Ideally, you'll want complete flexibility to partner with any number of solutions on the open market. For example, you may work with one company to optimize feeding data and with a different company for office-based functions, such as payroll and other financial matters.
Such adaptability allows animal producers and feed yard managers to use data to enhance their operations. Feeding technology solutions help you optimize your animals' potential. Personalized configurations, based on real-time analysis of the unique data you input, creates a more efficient and accurate feeding process. How much to feed your animals, at what ratios, and how often, are all decisions that can positively or negatively impact business profitability and sustainability.
What to be wary of: Technology partners who restrict their solutions' integrations with third-party software, forcing you to go "all-in" on their technology. Remember, your data is just that. A partner acting in your best interest won't put restrictions on what you can do with it.
Data ownership shouldn't be a question
As the animal health industry continues to evolve and keep pace with today's technology advancements, data rights and privacy may be growing concerns across our businesses. But they don't have to be cause for worry. The right animal health technology partner will be in the business of enabling you to put your data to work for you.