Technological advances have been happening throughout the world at an alarming rate. Cellular telephones have progressed from heavy, cumbersome equipment with poor reception into sleek, handy devices with as much computing power as a laptop. Cars have become increasingly automated and feature more monitors than drivers can keep their eyes on.
Even in other areas of agriculture, technology has changed the way business is done. Tractors can now drive themselves within inches of where they need to be.
Field-mapping has improved crop yields across the country, while reducing cost. The dairy industry is closing in on these types of industry-wide changes.
“It’s amazing the technologies that have been developed, the innovations that have been implemented in the dairy industry in this area of precision dairy farming. It’s clear as we look forward that we are getting a
glimpse into the future of what the dairy industry is going to look like in 2020, in 2030 and beyond. No doubt,
we are in a technological transformation within the dairy industry,” said Bewley.
Improving lifestyle and reducing labor
Besides improving cow production, precision technology has also altered the lifestyle of producers.
“In my role as an extension specialist, I’m not just worried about the wellbeing of the cow, but I’m also worried about the farmers. I think sometimes we don’t talk about farmer well-being, but it’s really important,” said Bewley.
For dairy producer Chad Kieffer, who hosted a pre-conference tour at his farm in Utica, Minn., an improved social life and having more time with the family were great reasons to invest in precision dairy tools.
“It’s made more flexibility for us. We don’t have to be there at set times if we’ve got something going on,” said Kieffer.
At Kiefland Holsteins, there are five robotic milkers with an activity-monitoring system to detect estrus and an automatic feed pusher for the 280-cow dairy.
Flexibility has allowed the farm to focus on other areas than milking during a typical day. For instance, during a recent hay cutting, Kieffer was able to stay in the field instead of heading back to the barn for a 5 p.m. milking.
After adopting these systems, Kieffer hired less help and moved a person to the night shift to better manage cows.
“It’s reduced our calls in the middle of the night, which has helped quite a bit as far as labor goes,” said Kieffer.