“The only thing that stays the same is every-thing changes, everything changes.” Those lyrics from the country song “Time Marches On” by Tracy Lawrence ring true when looking at how dairy farming has evolved over the years thanks to technology.
Less than a century ago many cows were still milked by hand while early milking machines were being developed and adopted. The Surge Bucket Milker was arguably the first major step to modern dairy farming when Herbert McCornack invented the machine in 1922.
TIESTALLS TO ROBOTS
Milking systems grew as farm size increased going from tiestalls to parallel or herringbone parlors and rotaries. All those systems are still in use on farms across the country, but robotics are starting to make their way onto more farms after being introduced more than 25 years ago.
Tractors have come a long way since the Waterloo Boy was making its way onto farm fields before the start of World War I. In 1918, the year the war ended, Waterloo Boy would eventually be bought by a company known for plows called John Deere. Tractors and other field equipment have continued to grow in size and capabilities alongside milking technology.
Around the same time robots became available to dairies in the early 1990s, company’s such as John Deere were looking into precision agriculture by using global positioning systems (GPS). Today it’s not an uncommon sight to see a tractor or forage harvester wheeling around a field with limited steering by an operator.
NO NEED TO BE FLASHY
Dairy technology doesn’t have to be big and flashy like robotics or GPS guided tractors to be game changing. It can be as simple as radio frequency identification (RFID) ear tags found on many dairy cows across the country. The creation and adoption of RFID tags and other monitoring systems has helped producers easily identify their best cows and cull those that aren’t performing.
To power all these technological innovations farmers need power and some are creating their own. Methane digesters have helped turn manure into electricity for many years on farms. Solar power is another option farms are taking advantage of to help put electricity back into the grid while powering their farms.
Nevertheless, dairies still need to do the little things like taking care of young stock while balancing a budget. Monitoring health and nutrition will always be important to maintaining a profitable herd too. Technology will continue to move dairy farms forward much as it has in the past 100 years proving that as “Time Marches On” so does change.