Modern Ranching: Invasion of New Technology

Modern Ranching: Invasion of New Technology

February 21, 2020 | Hall and Hall

Modern ranching operations are facing new opportunities to embrace advancing technology to further improve their businesses. While change can be intimidating, particularly when it involves learning and adopting new technology, these solutions can create efficiencies and increase profitability. Examples such as drones, specialized ear tags, and smartphone apps are making it easier for cattle ranchers to monitor their herd, all from the comfort of their home or office.

Drones are becoming more prevalent in the marketplace at all different price points and are relatively easy to learn how to operate. Drones include sensors and cameras that can assist in everything from “precision livestock management to locating an animal. It can change how we manage and identify sick and under-performing individuals even sooner than a pen rider or by horseback in a pasture.” Drones could be particularly useful for smaller operations where manpower and resources are limited. “The advantage of being a smaller operator is having the time to evaluate all the data these drones can provide to you, and determining how to implement it.” Other applications can include checking remote pastures for missing animals, monitoring pond and water tank levels, spotting heavily grazed areas, evaluating cross-fencing conditions, and gently moving cattle to a new location. One operator even used his drone to obtain video footage of his ranch after a wildfire for insurance purposes.

FAA regulations denote specific standards and requirements for operating a drone. Visit their website to learn more information and to register your drone.

Another new development that could be particularly useful for feedyard or stocker operations is a biometric-sensing ear tag. The ear tag contains sensors to track and measure the health of the animal and sends the recorded data to the cloud. Quantified Ag is a company that has developed biometric-sensing ear tags and corresponding software to monitor your herd of cattle more efficiently. Their ear tag “measures behavioral and biometric data to monitor health on each individual animal 24/7…[providing] a high probability to identify sickness in an animal the moment it starts to affect them.” Their ear-tag even has a small light that will turn on to help you identify the sick animal in a pen full of cattle.

Video sourced from the QuantifiedAg website

The founders of the company envision a future where their “Quantified Ag® Hub can be set up at the backgrounder, feedlot, and packer. The tags then automatically check-in at each location creating a data trail for each individual animal that reports to our cattle management software cattle.”

A European corporation has developed an Android app called Beefie that allows users to accurately measure cattle weight using the phone’s camera. It’s as simple as walking up to a cow in the pasture or pen and snapping a photo, then letting the algorithm handle the rest! Once the photo is taken, users can enter parameters such as the breed of the cow and the age to calculate the results. A small gadget plugs into the headphone jack and powers the application. Users can choose different plans that allow for more advanced weight tracking and the option to export the data from the application.  The process is quick, easy, and simple, and can be done with only one person.

Video sourced from the Agroninja website

Currently the application is limited to Android smartphones, but hopefully future updates will allow iPhone users the same opportunity to simplify the cattle weighing process.

It is easy to simply ignore new technologies and assume that the current way of doing things is sufficient, particularly when ranchers often learned their processes from an older cowboy or mentor, but change can be a good thing to embrace. New technologies can allow fewer employees to be more productive and efficient and provide ranchers with valuable information about their herd. Drones, specialized ear tags, and smartphone apps are all relatively easy solutions to implement and don’t require vast amounts of technical knowledge – pick one to try out and see if it fits within your operation. Modern ranching involves keeping an eye out for new innovations that may save time and money, and not being afraid to try out new processes.