The Latest in Farming Technology – There are dairy farms in all 50 states, but most Americans have never set foot on a farm and don’t really know where their dairy foods come from. So, most people may not realize that there are about 42,000 dairy farms families and 1,200 dairy processors across the country.
The Latest in Farming Technology
Farming is not a thing of the past, and the process sure has come a long way. Here’s my interview with a farmer about the latest in farming technology and processes his generation on the farm is using.
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – My parents were born and raised on a farm…working there until they left home, and milking cows was a big part of their duties. Can you tell us about your day-to-day role on the dairy farm?
Dairy Farmer Joe Kelsay – Let me start by saying that as people get further and further removed from the farm, whether that be grandparents or great grandparents, seems like the interest level of what happens on the farm and why it happens on the farm and how their food is produced is of increasing interest. So, we think it’s really a part of our responsibility…to have a conversation with those people that consume the products that we make…the dairy products we make here on our farm and around the country. To share those stories and really understand each other and where we’re coming from and why we do the things that we do. We excited to open our farm and share some of these realities and what we do here on the farm. And honestly, in its simplest form, it’s taking sunshine and rain, growing crops to feed animals in order to take great care of them so that will make food for people. And, that really is a rewarding place to wake up every morning and think about that as your impact on society. For my brother and I, sixth generation, our kids the seventh generation now right here in this place…thinking about those kinds of ideas of how we can do a better job with our environment, with our animals… to make milk every day. It’s really a great place to be and a great life to live.
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Obviously times are different from when my parents milked cows; what are some of examples of the latest in farming technology that make milking cows more efficient?
Dairy Farmer Joe Kelsay – Absolutely. Technology and innovation in agriculture and certainly on the dairy farm has been a reality in a theme that’s been through the ages and through the generations. I think about my grandfather and some of the information he helped pass on to my brother and I – waking up early, working hard all day, staying late, seeing what needs to be done, and doing what’s right for the cows, for the people and for the environment. That’s such an important theme and I think about Grandpa’s experience on this farm where he started with horses and finished with tractors. Certainly the technology and the milking parlor has changed. Our understanding of nutrition has changed. And, today, where Grandpa had pens and paper and maybe wrote a lot of the information, we can gather real-time cow level data on the individual cow basis and then analyze that with the power of computers to really help us make actionable decisions on the data we collect. As we look forward, I think the apps that are coming through the pipeline and the new technology that is making its way to the farm certainly offers new opportunities as we look to the next generation on what might happen next. On our farm, we have little boxes that the cows wear on their back legs, and these little transponders communicate and share information about that cow. We collect how much milk that cow gave, how long she was in the parlor (when she came, when she left), and also how many steps she took. And we use that data to really make those decisions on how to make individual cow level decisions. So, as we think about that technology, and we look to nutrition technology on understanding the biology…of a cow and what kinds of feed she can eat, as well as how she feels and how she performs based on that feed. We work with a nutritionist to help us make those decisions, and come up with that diet that meets their nutritional needs. We also have tractors that help us be more efficient in the farm. They drive themselves back and forth so we can make sure that we’re making the most of the land that we have charge of to grow the feed that the cows will need. And, beyond that, communication…. a really important piece of technology. We can connect with all of our team members here, what protocols, with what’s happening now and what’s happening tomorrow, along with what’s happening internally and then connect externally…what occurs around the country and around the world…we can evaluate new ideas.
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Well, that sounds a little different than the days of sitting on a stool with a pail. You’re saying that the latest in farming technology helps to keep the cows healthy; does it also result in a better product?
Dairy Farmer Joe Kelsay – I think as we figure out more about the cow, the cow is healthier, the product is of a higher quality, it makes it way to the consumer in a faster and more efficient method…lots of advantages to that. But, I’ll tell you, back to the pail and the stool – if you ever had a chance to hand milk a cow, you’ll really appreciate that next glass of milk that you drink. We’ve really come a long way from those days, and thankfully we’ve done it so everyone can enjoy milk.
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Do dairy farmers supply more than milk; do you also make cheese, yogurts or any other dairy products?
Dairy Farmer Joe Kelsay – Here on our farm, we produce raw milk. Then, we sell the milk off the farm off to a processor. And, that processing company changes the milk into other products that you might enjoy, whether it be bottled milk, or cheese, or yogurt, or cottage cheese, or butter, etc. That’s all made at the processing plant. Here on the farm, it’s milk from the cow.
Lisa LaGrou Oakland County Moms – Can you make a raw cheese and not have it be processed?
Dairy Farmer Joe Kelsay – I think it’s possible that you can do different types of cheese production. I really don’t know the processing part of it, but what I do know is that on the farm when we think about what to provide for our animals, and think about the feeds that we feed – it’s really about connecting the best practices for the animals and for the environment to make the highest quality product we can. And our processor turns it into those products that they can find a market for.
For more info on The Latest in Farming Technology, visit undeniablydairy.org