At Nebraska Cattlemen’s Classic in Kearney, beef producers learn about new technology on the horizon
March 4, 2016
During the 25th Anniversary of the Nebraska Cattlemen's Classic, beef producers caught a glimpse of what future technology may bring.
Specialists discussed everything from strides being made in weather forecasting to the use of drones in identifying sick cattle, barn cameras to keep premises secure and how cattle health will be monitored in the future.
Kent Boughton, chief forecaster with NTV/KFXL Fox in Nebraska, told producers that the world has gone through many cycles of climate change. He also highlighted attempts to control pollution in some areas, while others still produce significant pollution that is contributing to climate change.
“The barn cameras can save a lot of time of running back and forth during calving. It can also monitor the farm and ranch when you are gone. It can send a text or you will receive a phone call notifying you that someone is on your property.” Justin Jarecke, Merck Animal Health
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"We need everyone (around the world) to take part in controlling pollution," he said. "Not just certain countries."
Boughton praised farmers and ranchers for taking care of the land.
"Being good stewards of the land is engrained in farmers and ranchers," he said. "It has been generation after generation."
Despite efforts from those who are trying to prevent climate change, the climate has still undergone drastic changes, Boughton said.
"Storms have become much more severe. Last year, there was a thunderstorm moving 90 mph," he said.
New technology has allowed meteorologists to more accurately predict the weather, like tech that allows them to be live on air when tornadoes are happening.
"One of the biggest we have televised was an F3 tornado that struck the Elm Creek area."
The problem is, Boughton said, when a tornado warning is issued, the first thing people do is go outside to take pictures, chase the tornado, or shoot video, rather than taking cover.
The National Weather Service now has access to better forecast models, which can accurately predict if the spring will be wet or dry, he said. With this being an El Nino year, forecasters have predicted a very wet spring, Boughton said.
"Drought is about non-existent in Nebraska. After the drought Nebraska went through a few years ago, it is surprising how quickly Mother Nature used a band-aid and healed herself," he said.
Boughton recalled when he started forecasting weather 39 years ago, it was with a big map of the U.S. and a couple markers he used to draw the fronts on. Weather predictions came in twice a day from the Associated Press.
New technological advances have produced radar images that can show tornadoes and stormy weather with near accuracy. Boughton said when tornadoes would occur at night, storm spotters would have to watch for tornadoes during lightning strikes.
Today's technology allows them to see the tornadoes after dark, when they are most dangerous, using radar.
Dennis Hoppe with the Farmers Business Network described how his company helps farmers organize and analyze all their data to make it useful.
"We basically break down the data for your farm, and then we can anonomize it so you can see your entire area," he said.
They use data from many systems and put it all into one platform.
"Aggregated intelligence bench marketing compares all growers with similar inputs," he said.
In an example, Hoppe said a producer can compare the performance of a seed he has selected with results from other growers in the area who used a similar seed. Growers can also benchmark their costs, anonymously.
"They can go back and compare with other growers in their area to see where they rate," Hoppe said.
The company also offers the Intelligent Mobile Farming app, which allows farmers to take pictures and notes of any scouting event. If there are enough growers concerned about some type of event, like a particular insect, this app can be used to send out an alert.
Hoppe said the goal of his company is to make farming fair to farmers, provide data that is simple and provide farmers with the best information available. He notes that Farmers Business Network is a completely independent company.
Tech as a tool
Speakers from Quantified Ag, Neogen/Geneseek/RosTech Wireless, Merck Animal Health, AgEagle and Viaero Wireless served on a panel discussing the use of technology to sustain healthy beef production.
According to Rick Pfortmiller with Neogen/Geneseek, traits that were traditionally measured, like weighing cattle on a scale, can be determined with a DNA sample.
"As the beef industry moves from the commodity-side to a value-added product, DNA can be used to determine if the animal will meet a particular market," he said.
Pete Cunningham with AgEagle, said drones can be useful in a cattle operation as a way to identify a sick animal quicker than a pen rider, as well as a way to check on herds in a pasture.
Andrew Uden, who works with Quantified Ag, talked about new biometric sensing eartags and data analysis that can moved the beef industry into precision beef production.
These eartags can measure biometrics and behavior of animals, verify if the animal was treated for disease and the outcome, and verify if the animal was treated humanely.
"We can manage a group of cattle at an individual level, on a head by head basis," he said. "We can put more efficiency and cost management structure back in the hands of the producer."
Uden said the new eartags will take a lot of infrastructure just to put in place. Some of the eartags are capable of monitoring when an animal comes to the bunk or for water. It can monitor the animal all day by monitoring the head position, mobility of animal and ear canal temperature.
"The tag can send and receive data," Uden said. "We are still working on the range. Currently, the reader can read the tag from two miles away."
Justin Jarecke of Merck Animal Health said at a feedlot level, producers may be forced to use some of this technology, even if they don't want to, just to be in the business.
But though some pieces of the puzzle may seem problematic, like infrastructure and cost, others may prove a boon to producers, like potential safety and convenience.
For example, Shawn Rosen discussed wireless security cameras as a way to monitor cattle during calving, as well as protect the homestead from trespassers.
"The barn cameras can save a lot of time of running back and forth during calving," he said. "It can also monitor the farm and ranch when you are gone. It can send a text or you will receive a phone call notifying you that someone is on your property." ❖