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Convenience That’s Hard to Beat

February 24, 2014
 
 


Pete Wiersma

Pete Wiersma

Buhl, Idaho

In addition to helping manage 1,500 cows on his family’s two dairies in Idaho’s Magic Valley, Wiersma serves on the boards of United Dairymen of Idaho and Independent Milk Producers.

 


When it comes to new technology, I’ll have to admit that I’m not one of the early adopters. But once something has been proven in the real world, we’ll have no trouble adding it if we feel it would make a positive contribution to our business.

First and most recent for us would be the use of smart phones. Whether or not they add to our bottom line is debatable, but for sheer convenience they are hard to beat. From feed and milk prices to weather information to online banking, all that and much more is right there in that little device. With almost instantaneous access to that kind of information, we feel that we can make better and more informed decisions—and we don’t need to be in the office to do it.

For the past 20 years or so, we’ve been using computers for herd management and other tasks, but the continual upgrades and improvements in software and processing speed could qualify as "new" technology. We use DairyQuest herd management software to manage the cows and heifers, and for accounting we use Quickbooks.

Both programs are able to give us all the lists, statistics and graphs that we could ever want and make it easy to spot areas in our operation that need improvement. Excel is another handy program that helps us to develop our own spreadsheets for keeping a closer eye on costs in a specific area of our operation.

A few years ago, we installed a security camera system that helps us keep tabs on what’s going on in the parlors and other strategic areas of the dairies. The system always has the last 60 hours saved on a hard drive and is accessible through the Internet, so no matter where I am, if there is an Internet connection, I can use a laptop or even my smartphone to see what the camera is seeing.

To reduce wear and tear on our pumps and motors, we have installed variable-speed controllers. These allow the motors to start slower and run only as fast as needed to maintain a preset level of whatever it is the sensor is measuring—vacuum level, water pressure, flow rate, etc. We have found that bearings, belts and the pumps themselves last longer when they’re no longer subject to repeated hard starts and running at full speed.

The "next big thing" for us will probably be an RFID system. After that, who knows? As I said at the beginning, I’m not an early adopter. But I have read some interesting stuff about robotic milkers.

Wiersma’s recent prices

Milk

$21.35 (3.67 bf, 3.23 prt)

Cull cows

$75-$84/cwt.

Springing heifers

$2,000/head

Alfalfa hay

$220-$260/ton

Cottonseed

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RELATED TOPICS: Dairy, Technology, Dollars & Sense

 
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