Agricultural technology continues to make leaps forward. GPS-based systems are used by farmers, custom harvesters and chemical applicators all over the world providing increased accuracy for yields and applications of materials from chemical fertilizer to manure. Information can be produced by these programs much faster than former methods. However, nothing created by people is perfect or lasts forever.
Just like any other equipment, proper installation, maintenance and repairs are needed. The only thing worse than no information is wrong information. John Fulton and Elizabeth Hawkins authored an article originally published August 2019 in the Ohio Country Journal regarding helpful tips for precision agriculture this harvest season. Following is a summary of their work.
Make sure to update your precision ag firmware and software for each program you will be using. (Updates are not only for your smartphone.) This includes GPS guidance programs and yield monitoring systems. Ask your equipment dealer for help if needed — they will have access to updates or know how to direct you.
Check the mass-flow sensor on your combine. The plate receives a lot of wear from falling grain and excessive wear can produce faulty measurements. When replacing any yield monitoring components make sure to recalibrate. Calibration should be treated as maintenance — do it periodically.
A grain cart with known accurate scales is a great way to check for consistency. The cart should be on a slope of less than 2% and weight taken while stopped.
Many yield monitoring systems require the operator to input parameters for possible yield and conditions. Make sure to reset those between different crop species.
Taking additional notes regarding observations in the field or weather conditions may be helpful to file with your yield records for future reference. Using the camera on your phone is another way to collect and save information quickly while in the field.
The full article can be read here: https://go.osu.edu/Bbyj
Weaning livestock is another important but stressful time on the farm. It may be too late for some producers, but there are advantages to late weaning. Garth Ruff, OSU Extension Educator in Henry County, shares his take on best weaning management considering a difficult spring and low forage supplies. The "hierarchy of nutrient use" begins with maintenance, then development, growth, lactation, reproduction, and ending with fattening, he says. If forage quality or quantity is barely enough to maintain lactation, be advised reproductive systems are already compromised. Removing the burden of milk production will allow cows to divert their energy to reproduction for the coming season. Read Ruff’s complete article here: https://go.osu.edu/BacV
The principles above also apply to goat and sheep producers who can read the 2011 Weaning Primer on Maryland’s small ruminant web page. There, Susan Schoenian assures readers that "(y)oung animals convert feed very efficiently" so producers do not have to be concerned that young stock will go hungry without 4 months of milk. In addition, moving young animals off pasture and to a feed lot earlier reduces the likelihood of severe parasite burden. New feedstuffs for young stock should always be introduced prior to weaning.
Fence-line weaning for beef cattle is somewhat labor-intensive, but low-stress. In short, the calves have visual and physical contact with their dams but are unable to suckle. After a few days without milk, the calves and cows start to behave independently and can be fully separated. This method requires planning quality stocked pastures with good fencing. Heather Smith Thomas, rancher since 1967, has a 2019 article thoroughly covering several weaning practices: https://go.osu.edu/BacZ
Nose flaps are another option that prevents calves from suckling but does allow food and water consumption. This requires restraining each calf at weaning and again later to remove the flap. It also prevents calves from sucking on each other.
Dry-lot weaning is the complete and sudden separation of calves from their dams. This can be a stressful method of weaning, though perhaps the easiest management-wise. Occasional increased cases of Bovine Respiratory Disease have been reported among calves weaned under this practice.
With early weaning management among any livestock, consider how various management practices could be causing additional stress. Vaccinations are not recommended at weaning. Keep young animals together and watch lactating animals for signs of mastitis shortly after weaning. Slow growing animal breeds will do better with later weaning.
In 2016, Bailey, et al. studied three weaning systems in beef operations: dry-lot, fence-line pasture weaning and fence-line with supplemental feed. In conclusion, while growth rates, feed intake and efficiency vary in each system at different times, no noticeable differences were observed upon finishing. So, managed well, any of the systems can be effective. View the study here: https://go.osu.edu/Bacq or read a concise summary, Pasture Weaning vs. Drylot Weaning by Steve Boyles, OSU Beef Extension Specialist, here: https://go.osu.edu/Bacv
Matthew Nussbaum is an OSU Extension Agriculture & Natural Resources Program Assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722.