From the simplest plows to the irrigation channels that first
diverted rivers to farmers' fields to the machinery of the
Industrial Revolution, the seeds of invention for many of
mankind's most ingenious ideas were first planted on a farm.
generation has yielded its own technological advances, from
self-steering tractors to more efficient corn-drying systems to
methane digesters that collect manure and convert it into gas or
It won't be
long before drones are used to survey farm operations or perform
other tasks, predicted Waukesha County Farm Bureau President and
dairy farmer Lloyd Williams.
|"You have to think
outside of the box in this county. Instead of growing
the herd or gaining acres, you take your product to the
newest technological advances are a luxury that isn't feasible
for many farms in Waukesha County, Williams said, citing the
price of such advancements, the limited room for farms to
expand, the increased odors and traffic that would come with
expansion and the reluctance of municipalities to have larger
operations within their boundaries.
have the land base to grow," he said. "In neighboring counties,
it is common to see hundreds of cows, or thousands of cows at
one operation that is 1,000 acres or more."
doesn't happen often in Waukesha County, said Kristin Krokowski,
commercial horticulture educator with the University of
Wisconsin-Extension, since the price of land is more expensive
and it is more difficult to amass contiguous properties.
larger farms and larger equipment may not jibe with the urban
nature of the county, Williams said.
have big farm equipment taking up a lot of the road," he said.
"Residents in our more urban community need that comfort zone
Waukesha County looks different, he said.
"You have to
think outside of the box in this county. Instead of growing the
herd or gaining acres, you take your product to the next level."
Williams Homestead in the Town of Delafield has expanded - just
as the Koepke Farm in the Town of Oconomowoc has - into cheese
years, you live a new chapter in your life," Williams said. "And
you have to adapt."
equipment aids efficiency
in the Town of Oconomowoc is one of few in the county who use
self-steering tractors. The farm utilizes five such vehicles,
and one self-steering combine.
made use of this technology since 2006, and Luke Miller says he
can't imagine going back to manual steering.
realize how much you overlap seeding and fertilizer until you
have autosteer," he said. "With the amount of money spent on
fertilizer, we don't want to have overlap and leave something
having to steer is nice, he added, since the driver has less
fatigue at the end of the day.
be programmed into autosteer, so that less seeding is done in
gravely, dry areas and more in the fertile part of the field.
When it's time to harvest, real-time yield mapping can track how
much crop the field is yielding, in what areas and the history
of the yield.
Holterman of Rosey-Lane Farms in Watertown said his 14,000-acre
farm is also capitalizing on technology, using GPS,
computerization and genetics.
His farm is
two years into utilizing the GPS system, but he predicts that it
will ensure the optimal amount of seeds are dispersed
everywhere, respective to the farm's terrain. Using GPS, farmers
can identify crops and the moisture they are containing, and
review an area's history to determine the troublesome spots.
monitored 24/7 by cameras and footage can show if an animal is
sick or stressed. Machines also track milking speed, quantity
and composition of the milk. Using a hair sample from a female
calf, scientists can analyze DNA to determine how big the calf
is likely to get, how much milk will be produced in a lifetime
and how long that lifetime will be.
the same as any other business," Holterman noted. "Computers and
technology are making everything more efficient and more
said his farm has been able to expand due to its embrace of
record-keeping and human observation of cows was requiring three
to four full-time employees; we were relying on people's innate
cattle skills, but they couldn't be as accurate as a computer,"
he said. "Also, a computer can work 24 hours a day."
Tried and true
In this era
of such technology, 56-year-old Greg Kummrow of Oconomowoc
proves it is still possible to be a one-man operation using only
the tools that the generations before him had at their disposal.
newest tractor on his five-generation farm, he said, is a 1966
John Deere 4020. Kummrow has three main tractors that he uses to
accomplish the majority of the work that needs to be done on a
"I do it the
way it has always been done. Some other farmers today use GPS
systems to plant their crops more accurately; I prefer to plant
on faith," he said. "I'm not one who likes change; I fight it."
which produces Battle Creek Beef & Bison, is largely Kummrow
working alone, with occasional assistance from his sons. The
tractors make his autonomy possible.
it's trucking, baling, plowing or hauling manure, anything that
you can do with a new tractor can also be done with the older
tractors," said Kummrow. "It is just slower."
autonomy is on display when the machines are functioning
correctly - and also when they're not.
"If you need
to, you can break those old tractors down to bare metal and
rebuild them," he said. "You can't do that with the modern
machines. The ones with the computers can't really be touched by
older machines are also durable," he added. "Back then, they
were built to last. I don't know if the machines of today are."
said when Waukesha County farmers do make that investment in
technology, it must be economical and efficient.
a state-of-the-art drying system for his corn, for example. Just
the computer for the system cost $10,000 to $12,000, Williams
ultimately sold me was that the dryer would pay for itself in a
year, based on what I saved on gas," he added. "It's also a
quieter system. The old system was so loud that everyone in the
neighborhood knew I was drying corn."