12 Jul Farmers explore technology at Wisconsin event
Loyal, Wis. – Technology is having a profound impact on farming much the same as people would associate technological advances in such fields as manufacturing, biotech or dot-com businesses, though many might not realize it.
Wisconsin Farm Technology Days 2005, hosted at the Malm family farm in Loyal, WI, will showcase the latest technology developments and how they are impacting agriculture. The fair began on Tuesday, July 12, and runs through Thursday, July 14.
“We’re talking about all sizes of farms,” said Matt Jorgensen, executive secretary of the event, “because all farms have the opportunity to make technological advances, whether it be equipment that can run a little faster, do a little bit more, or whether we’re talking about newer drugs that are more effective in treating mastitis.”
According to Jorgensen, there are plenty of new technologies emerging, whether it’s software to manage crops or methane digesters to convert dairy manure into electricity. He also credited research in the UW system for many of the new applications.
“Years ago you did a lot of paperwork ,” said Gary Eibergen, a lifelong farmer and member of the fair’s executive committee. “All these new ideas are coming out where everything is getting automated.”
One example of that kind of technology is the use of computers for herd management. Eibergen said he used to keep track of seemingly endless paper records for each cow. Now he is able to spend about 20 minutes on his computer every morning sorting those records and determining the needs of his herd electronically.
Eibergen also credits emerging technologies such as global positioning systems as well as the latest versions of existing technologies like harvesters with increasing efficiency in farm work.
Another emerging agricultural technology is the use of radio-frequency identification tags for cattle identification. While the technology was developed years ago the emergence of genuine standards and affordability are only now just bringing it to market.
RFID is a technology that could potentially revolutionize beef production, with information on a cow automatically updating in its database entry at weigh-in. A major benefit will come from being able to track where a disease breaks out and thus minimize the inconvenience of quarantine.
“They can narrow their focus down much more rapidly and lift quarantines on areas surrounding that [outbreak] a little quicker than what we used to do,” according to Jeff Lehmkuhler, a beef-cattle specialist for the University of Wisconsin Extension.
“As the technology becomes more affordable, it’s expected that it’ll be more accessible to the smaller producer and we’ll see them maybe utilize identification technology to better assist them in their day-to-day management,” Lehmkuhler added.
As technological advances change farming, it could become a sector very different from how it was done even a few years ago, with processes that are far more efficient and streamlined.
“Technology takes on many forms in dairy operations,” Jorgensen said. “It takes on the form of newer equipment that can run at less power to be more fuel-efficient. Technology has moved us from hand milking all the way up to robots that can milk cows now. It’s changed forestry harvesting from hand sawing to using machines to the point where we can now market that lumber as it’s being cut out in the woods. It really affects everything that production agriculture is.”