There's more web-savvy dairy farmers than ever.
According to the USDA's "Farm Computer Usage and Ownership" report, released last Friday, 61 percent of dairy farms in the U.S. have internet access, compared to 52 percent in 2009.
The first report to track farm computer use in 1997 did not break it down specifically among dairy farms, but among livestock farms in general, 13 percent had internet access. That means there has been tremendous growth over the past 14 years.
In 2011, 64 percent of dairy farms had computer access, up 4 percentage points from 2009. Yet, there is a major difference between dairy farms, depending on income. Eighty-three percent of the dairy farms with annual incomes of $250,000 or more have computer access, compared to 52 percent with annual incomes less than that.
Ray Prock, owner of Ray-Lin Dairy in Denair, Calif., recalls the farm's first computer in the mid-1990s. “Our first computer had a floppy drive and we used dial-up, both nearly obsolete technologies.” Technology used at Ray-Lin Dairy has advanced tremendously since that time. Today, Ray-Lin Dairy has several computers, and hand-held devices and smart phones are also used to manage the operation.
Improved technology helps this dairy manage a high volume of information easily. “Computers and technology allow us to be more detailed on the types and amount of information recorded,” notes Prock.
Computer and technology usage in the dairy industry will likely continue to increase as reflected in the NASS report. Prock agrees and is excited about what the future of technology might offer his operation. “The possibilities with technology are endless,” he says. “I may be a bit biased, but I think the agriculture industry has seen more technology innovation and advancement in the last three years than any other segment.”
Read the new report from the USDA;s National Agricultural Statistics Service.