Farming in the 21st Century

Farm technology has come a long way in the past few decades! From cell phone apps to Global Positioning Systems, farmers have more opportunities than ever to incorporate the newest and best ideas into their operations. Surprisingly, many of the newest technological advancements are common in everyday life and just used differently on farms.


This ultrasound image is showing the ribeye area on the steer – the same place a ribeye steak comes from.

Ultrasound technology is most commonly seen in doctor’s offices, but farmers have taken the ultrasound machine out of the obstetrician’s examining room and brought it to the pasture. Cattle producers can use ultrasound machines to detect pregnancy as well as determine fetal viability, gender, and calving date. This knowledge allows producers to make better management decisions for their females. Farmers can closely predict calving date so that females have proper care at calving time, and can plan sales of animals based on gender before calves are even born!

Beef cattle producers are also using ultrasound technology in a very innovative way. An ultrasound technician can take images between the 12th and 13th ribs on the body of an animal destined for slaughter. These images capture intramuscular fat, or marbling, ribeye area, and rib fat which all reflect the quality of the meat. Farmers can use this information to determine when the animal is ready to be sold and can help buyers price the animals.

Farmers are also taking hold of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) for use in precision agriculture. GPS receivers are positioned on combine, tractor and sprayer cabs. Using this technology, farmers can avoid planting rows too close or far apart. Farmers can also use GPS to pinpoint spots in the field that need tillage, pesticides, or fertilizer – that way, the whole field doesn’t get tilled or sprayed. This helps reduce fuel emissions and the amount of chemicals sprayed onto a field. This is a great way for farmers to save money and the environment.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones, can play a huge role in agriculture. While the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is still working on regulations for drones in agriculture, farmers can already see many potential uses for them. Crop scouting to find insects, diseases and weeds in fields can be done with drones, saving farmers time and money – and providing accurate and reproducible results. For livestock farmers, drones can be used to check fencing in far-reaching pastures without having to travel the whole length of a pasture. Other farmers, like Brian Scott of the Farmer’s Life, are using drones to capture life on the farm from an usual angle and share it with people all around the world. The applications for drones in agriculture are endless.

There are many other ways farmers are implementing new technology on the farm. Egg producers use machines to wash, grade, and candle every individual egg, which prevents loss from human error and is far more efficient. Dairy farmers use so much technology on their farms that milk is never touched by human hands from the time it is milked from the cow to when it reaches the supermarket shelves – which only takes 48 hours. Some dairy farmers even have robotic milkers. Many farmers who have grain elevators can control their grain dryers via iPad apps from inside the combine cab.

For farmers today, efficiency and constant improvement is crucial. Incorporating new technology is one way for farmers to change the way they operate for the better – helping them make better business decisions, be more efficient, and produce a better product.


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