To Learn About <\n>Precision Dairy Technologies
Precision dairy management involves the use of technology to measure indicators on individual cows and the use of automation to perform tasks.
Extension dairy educator Matt Haan explains that these technologies are intended to increase efficiency, ultimately improving farm profitability. Many of these technologies can be applied to both small and large farms.
Robotic milking systems, cow activity and rumination sensors, automatic calf feeders, and other precision technologies are becoming increasingly popular.
Many of these technologies are not new; for example, robotic milking systems have been used in Europe for more than 20 years.
The increased use of precision technologies in the dairy industry is driven, in part, by the adoption of technologies originally developed for other industries and by our increased familiarity with using such technologies as smartphones, tablet computers and GPS in other aspects of our daily lives.
Even though precision technologies offer a lot of potential benefits, adoption rates — while increasing — still tend to be slow.
The three main factors limiting adoption of precision technologies, according to a 2008 University of Kentucky study, were 1) a lack of familiarity with the technologies that are available, 2) an undesirable cost to benefit ratio, and 3) too much information is provided by the technology without producers knowing what to do with it.
Other factors limiting adoption of precision technology include a fear of technology, poor technical support, lack of time to work with the technology, lack of perceived economic value and concerns that the technology is not yet mature.
Many factors must be considered when evaluating the adoption of a particular technology. While economics is important, in the case of robotic milking other factors such as quality of life and a lack of access to labor are of more importance.
Henk Hogeveen and Wilma Steeneveld reported at a precision dairy conference earlier this year in Rochester, Minn., that several studies in Europe and the U.S. have shown that robotic milking is not economical compared with conventional systems.
Even though these systems may not be as economical, more than 14 percent of Dutch dairy farms have adopted robotic milking technology, and greater adoption rates are seen in other countries.
No matter what technology is being considered or what priorities the farmer uses when evaluating it for use on the farm, the technology is beneficial only if it is used.
If breeding management and conception rates are already at a high level, the addition of activity monitors may not be beneficial. Similarly, if rates are poor because of poor management, monitors may not help until other factors are corrected.
This fall, the Penn State Extension Dairy Team will hold two Precision Dairy Technology Forums to inform farm managers on precision dairy technologies, factors to consider before adopting them and strategies to implement them.
The first forum will be in Chambersburg on Oct. 18 and will focus on robotic milking and automatic calf feeding. The second will be held in Lancaster on Oct. 31 and will focus on genomics and activity monitors. Both will be free. For more information, visit http://extension.psu.edu/animals/dairy/events.
To Control Biennial <\n>and Perennial Weeds
While we still have nice warm days, it is a good time to scout pasture and hay fields for the presence of biennial and perennial weeds.
Problem biennials can include burdock; poison hemlock; musk, bull and plumeless thistle; and several others. These biennials have a two-year life cycle where they emerge from seed in mid- to late summer, overwinter and then bolt and flower in the second year.
You can have both mature and seedling plants present depending on the time of year. Extension agronomist Bill Curran reminds us that biennials are easiest to control while still small in the seedling or rosette stage of growth, so fall herbicide application can be quite effective.
In addition, shorter days and cooler nights are a signal to perennial plants that winter is approaching, prompting them to more actively transport carbohydrates and sugars to underground storage structures such as rhizomes, tubers and roots to enable them to survive the winter and to provide the energy to begin the next cycle of growth in the spring.
That means this is the ideal time to attempt control with a systemic herbicide that travels with the carbohydrates and sugars to these underground structures to disrupt the foundation of these plants.
For warmer season perennials such as johnsongrass, horsenettle, groundcherry, wirestem muhly, pokeweed, Japanese knotweed and poison ivy, application between Sept. 1 and 15 is generally ideal.
For weeds like hemp dogbane and bindweed, make applications before Oct. 1. For quackgrass, other cool-season grasses and Canada thistle, try to make applications by Oct. 15.
These suggested dates target central Pennsylvania and should be adjusted by a week or so forward or backward for areas farther south or north.
Scout your hay and pasture ground, fence rows and other noncropland now to help plan for some weed management this fall.
Quote of the Week
“When everybody owns something, nobody owns it, and nobody has a direct interest in maintaining or improving its condition. That is why buildings in the Soviet Union — like public housing in the United States — look decrepit within a year or two of their construction.”
— Milton Friedman
Leon Ressler is district director of Penn State Cooperative Extension for Chester, Lancaster and Lebanon counties.