Technology Rules at NY Farm Show

3/3/2014 6:30 AM
By Chris Torres Regional Editor

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The New York Farm Show started out 29 years ago with one building on the grounds of the New York State Fairgrounds.

Today, the show has grown to six buildings and more than 230,000 square feet of exhibit space.

This year’s show was held Feb. 20-22, with a focus on new farm technologies and in particular, dairy robotics.

“The robotic milking seminars we had, the attendance has been fantastic, with all of the four manufacturers of robots here,” said Scott Grigor, show manager. “People are more interested, and it’s getting to be a good aspect of dairy farming.”

The show featured more than 400 exhibitors ranging from equipment and seed dealers to farm toy dealers and local farms showing off their unique products.

The show also featured daily seminars on beef production, woodlot management and anaerobic digesters. A crop insurance seminar covered new options for producers going into the 2014 growing season.

Speaking of robotic milkers, GEA Farm Technologies had its MIone robotic milking system on display. The system utilizes one robotic arm to service multiple milking “boxes.”

Greg Larson, MIone sales expert, said the company’s focus is on farms in New York, Vermont and the Midwest since the system, he said, works best on farms with 500 cows or less.

“Our boxes come modular in two-, three- and four-box scenarios,” Larson said. “You can piggy-tail all of them together.”

The system can handle between seven and eight cows per box per hour. But it’s not cheap.

“It’s about $650,000 for a four-box system,” Larson said.

The huge price tag for the GEA system is a little much for Cory Freeland, who works on a 1,400 cow dairy in Lansing, N.Y. Still, he likes being on the cutting edge of technology, which is why he came to the show in the first place.

“Anything innovative and new, I’m interested in it,” Freeland said. “I don’t have a half million to buy one of these right now, but this dual robot is pretty impressive and there are a couple of pieces of equipment that are interesting.”

Dairy robots weren’t the only cutting-edge thing to see at this year’s show.

Oxbo International Corp. had on display its 4334 self-propelled hay merger. The machine, which company representative Josh Bartholomew said is the first of its kind in the industry, has 34-foot pickup heads, but can fold up to a maximum width of 10 feet for easy transport on roads.

“We found the need for a self-propelled unit that’s great for going down the roads and has good small-field maneuverability,” he said.

As a result, Bartholomew said the company has sold more units in the Northeast than in any other part of the country.

“When people see this and see how big it is, they think out West. We sell more of these in Pennsylvania, New York and Michigan, the smaller Midwestern farms, than anywhere else in the U.S.,” he said. “There is none west of Indiana and it’s because of the maneuverability.”

Digi-Star LLC had on display its handheld moisture content monitor used to measure the moisture of animal feed. Sam Vorpahl, the company’s farm products manager, said the portable device utilizes near-infrared technology to shine a light on a crop.

“So much is reflected back, so much is absorbed. It’s the absorbance number it reads in order to give a dry matter reading,” Vorpahl said. “There is a USB storage on the device. The information can be taken to a computer or taken to a TMR tractor feed management program. It’s rapid, easy to use and it’s portable.”

It’s also expensive: $7,000 for a single device. The company debuted the device at World Dairy Expo last fall and orders are being shipped out this week.

Vorpahl said while the device is expensive, the cost of being off on dry matter content by even a few percentage points can be even more costly to a dairy farmer.

“It’s a lot, but when you look at today’s feed costs and the fact that feed costs for a 100-cow dairy is $250,000 worth of value of product,” even higher for a 500-cow dairy, being off by 1 or 2 percentage points on dry matter, he said, can cost a farmer milk production.

“It can mean a lot to milk production, herd health,” he said.

Even with the number of farms in New York on the decline — the latest Ag Census showed a 2.2 percent drop in total number of farms in the state — Grigor said attendance at the show has been consistent the past couple of years.

“The big thing we look at is, farming is shrinking. If I can keep the same amount of people as in other years and keep my present exhibitors happy, it’s a win-win situation for all of us,” Grigor said.

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