Using technology to generate and analyze data has become an increasingly prevalent ingredient to success in many fields and industries — including farming.
Recognizing the availability of data-gathering tools and being able to to utilize tools and services to assess any data collected can be a boon for farmers in many ways, and making data-informed decisions can help drive a farm’s profitability.
Conservation group Pheasants Forever offers services to farmers to help them take the data farmers are able to aggregate through software programs and turn those numbers into meaningful conclusions that can improve profitability — with an additional bonus of boosted sustainability.
That’s where Scott Stipetich, precision ag and conversation specialist with Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever, comes in.
By using the data farmers have collected over the years, Stipetich can work with farmers on profitability mapping, overlaying data including field boundaries, yield and budget to help farmers see which sub-areas of a field may be underperforming and dragging the field as a whole down.
Based on the data that profitability mapping outputs, Stipetich and the farmers he works with can identify areas and create solutions unique to the farm itself.
“It’s got to make sense for the farm,” Stipetich said Sept. 1 during an episode of the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin Dairy Signal webinar.
Those solutions often involve taking cropland that isn’t producing a profit and turning it over to a more sustainable use, such as cover crops, grazing, grass strips, hay or wildlife habitat.
One success story cited by Stipetich included a Dunn County corn field that when mapped showed a loss of profitability in a smaller finger-like segment of a 40-50 acre field that was getting flooded by the Hay River.
Taking 3.6 acres out of production in the flooded area and enrolling it in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program increased average yield and profit per acre, Stipetich said, and increased the farmer’s return on investment.
Applying data in this manner is far from the only way farmers can take advantage of the abundance of opportunities for data collection and interpretation available to them.
Some of those opportunities can be found right at their fingertips.
One option for farmers looking to time their chopped corn harvest just right can be downloaded onto any Android or Apple smartphone or tablet they may possess.
FeedScan, an app developed by Rock River Laboratory, includes a free feature called InField Updates that allows farmers to see crowdsourced data on corn moisture and quality from fields near them — or elsewhere in the United States — helping farmers make decisions on their own fields, said John Goeser, director of nutritional research and research at Rock River Laboratory and adjunct assistant professor in the Dairy Science Department at UW-Madison.
Farmers who want to go another step in the app can choose to work with Rock River Laboratory on submitting their own samples, but the InField Updates portion remains free available to anyone regardless of whether or not they do so.
Generally speaking, it’s up to farmers to determine which software works for them in collecting data over time.
For farmers unsure of which software to use, Stipetich recommended checking out trial versions.
Overall, for farmers, it’s important that they’re “using data to drive decisions,” Goeser said, and not just relying on what on what neighbors are doing or only one source of information.