Technology. That’s a dirty word for some of us.
I work with computers every day, but if they don’t work the way they should, I have to call for reinforcements, and my smartphone is much smarter than I am. My solution to most problems I encounter with electronics is to turn it off, wait a few minutes then turn it back on. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
New technology is not lost on agriculture, but farmers and ranchers can be a little slow to adapt to change. We have tried and true methods, but there is always room for improvements, improvements that can increase production without increasing the workload, which helps improve efficiency.
We’ve seen many advances over the last six decades and those advances continue to impact agriculture today. Tractors can practically drive themselves, robots can milk cows, livestock can be fed with the press of a button and crops are disease and insect resistant. We can also produce the highest-quality livestock possible thanks to genetic testing. My grandpa would have never believed that a color-changing patch could tell him when a heifer or cow was at her optimal breeding stage.
These improvements, as well as countless others, have made it possible for the American farmer to feed 155 people. In 1960 that number was 26, so we’ve come a long way.
There are some disadvantages, however, to advancements in agriculture, with cost being one of the biggest downfalls. A pickup truck can cost more today than what some people paid for their first farm, but I admit I like that backup camera and the little light that comes on the side mirrors when a vehicle is in my blind spot.
Sixty years ago, farmers could address many of the issues that might have caused an equipment breakdown and fix it themselves, but today’s equipment is comprised of more technology than Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin had on Apollo 11, so repairs can be rather expensive and lengthy. In some operations, producers have to call a technician out to their farm when things don’t work right on an automated system, which could mean cows don’t get milked and livestock isn’t fed until the glitch is worked out.
Thankfully there are new generations of agriculturalists who are working to bring agricultural technology into the 21st Century, a generation that has grown up with more of today’s technology than my generation ever dreamed about, a generation working to get the “bugs” out. This is a generation that might not know what a rotary phone is, but they do know how to make things like circuit boards and interfaces work.
While advancements in technology in agriculture are wonderful, there are some things technology will never totally replace, including farmers and ranchers. Technology cannot replace instincts or years of experience. Farmers and ranchers should not see technological advances as a way to push them out of the industry, but as tools to help them. Technology helps people work smarter, not harder.
As we go through 2019, I encourage you to look at one way you can improve your operation with technology. It might be something as simple as utilizing a new phone app to record which cow calved on what day, or as complex as digitizing your entire farm. Take a chance on the new smartphone your kids and grandkid say you “have” to have or check out what new gadgets are available to make your day a little easier. Embracing technology is much easier than running from it.
Julie Turner-Crawford is a native of Dallas County, Mo., where she grew up on her family’s farm. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Julie, call 1-866-532-1960 or by email at [email protected].