Changes in technology can be beneficial to farmers and ranchers
In today’s world, it’s difficult to find an industry that has not been untouched by technology, and agriculture is not immune.
These days, a farmer’s toolbox must contain more than wrenches and fencing pliers to stay relevant – it needs some measure of technology.
While adapting to new technological advancements can be difficult, it does provide an advantage.
“Without trying new things, no real progress gets made within the business of farming,” Andy McCorkill, livestock field specialist with the University of Missouri Extension, explained. “If the industry adopts new technologies that you choose not to, it can leave you at a disadvantage from a financial position and possibly a marketing position in some instances.”
While making some advancements in technology on the farm are necessary, not everything is a good fit, so some research is in order.
“I would caution that not all technology is right for every operation, however, and you should weigh the advantages against the costs and determine whether it is the right move for you or not. I would first say that doing your research to see if indeed investing on new technologies you are considering will provide a return on your investment by way of cost savings, increased productivity or making life easier for you. It’s easy to get wrapped up in sales pitches and promises of savings, and not all new technology pans out,” McCorkill said. “That being said, stepping out on a limb and trying new things often does pay off, and you never know until you try. I would recommend asking a lot of questions of a lot of people and reading all you can about whatever new technological advances you’re considering and, if at all possible, get your hands on the gadget, software, etc., and see how it fits you before taking a big financial plunge.
“As far as equipment goes, you can often get a free trial or rent the piece and see if it meets up to your expectations. Record-keeping software is often the same way, you can get a free trial for 30 days or try a free version that is minimal or something similar. This gives you a chance to get your feet wet before taking the plunge.”
There are many types of new technology that producers might wish to try, such as computer-based record-keeping systems to help simplify evaluating livestock herd records, field level data, and other farm level data, smartphones, synchronization and artificial insemination, tractor technology.
McCorkill has utilized new tractor technology on his own operation.
“I bought a new baler in the fall and it has the capability to store up to 50 fields worth of yield data at a time for easy comparisons. it has an onboard moisture reading system that displays real-time moisture data on the baler monitor for decision making purposes and although it is not equipped to do so, is capable of weighing bales and recording that in real time as well,” he said. “Those are tools that can produce data that is valuable for hay marketing purposes as well as for preparing quality feed and then feeding it appropriately.”
Wesley Tucker, field specialist in agricultural business with the University of Missouri Extension, praised today’s smartphones.
“Learning how to open the mapping app and switch to satellite images shows you exactly where you are standing in your field in relation to surroundings. This can be useful for laying out fences or even deciding where to split the field when mowing hay. Weather apps have gotten pretty accurate at showing us when the rain or snow is going to start falling,” he said. “There are countless other ways to use our smartphones to help us manage our farms better. Our smartphones can even help us with record keeping. Never before have we been able to stand in the middle of our cows and instantly look up when a particular cow calved last, if she vaccinated or if she ever had foot problems in the past. The information we need to make better management decisions is literally at our fingertips. We just need to learn how to use it more effectively.”
With some of the new challenges and situations 2020 has presented, technology is changing and being utilized more than ever, which can be a little nerve wracking – but it does not have to be all bad.
“COVID-19 changed our world practically overnight and pushed us in new directions we never thought we would go. The use of technology is part of that change,” Tucker said. “New technology can solve problems for us and make our lives easier, but the key is making the new tool work for you, rather than you working for it. Always consider how it will save you time or make you more effective compared to its cost.”