A dairy producer who hasn't bought a new tractor or piece of forage equipment in less than five years - which industry surveys say is most of them - will be amazed by what is out there now.
The level of technology in farming equipment today is, to put it mildly, stunning. Like classic cars, old farming equipment may have its admirers, but nothing compares to the speed, comfort, efficiency and versatility of modern equipment.
Last week I had the opportunity to learn about the 2014 tractor and forage lineup from New Holland. I knew I'd see "gee-whiz" sophistication and automation, but I didn't expect the Starship Enterprise. My head is still spinning.
Better fuel economy, faster operating speeds, easier maintenance, fewer field passes, incredible operator comfort and visibility, better safety, and a mind-boggling variety of information about what is happening were all part of the package. Farm equipment engineers sweat even the smallest details on a scale that I suspect auto engineers would admire.
Two things stood out during my in-cab rides in a hay swather and a hay baler:
- Over-the-field operating speeds of over 12 miles per hour can be had, which translate into cutting 22 acres per hour. Needless to say, this speed makes land leveling crucial.
- Information gathering, telemetry and archiving is available on a scale that I had no idea was possible. My favorite example is the ability to automatically attach computer microchips to baling twine that contain the date, time, GPS location and weather conditions for every individual bale.
The author has served large Western dairy readers for the past 36 years and manages Hoard's WEST, a publication written specifically for Western herds. He is a graduate of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, majored in journalism and is known as a Western dairying specialist.