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Patz Blog

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How Video Apps Can Help Your Operation

video

The world is teeming with technology, and the farming industry is no different. Farm equipment can be programmed to run on its own, with minimal human supervision. New technology is constantly being released. Below are a couple examples of technology that can be accessed through apps on your phone, so you can check on your operation during breakfast, and know exactly what needs to be addressed when you step out the door.  

Thermal Imaging – Not just for a 90’s sci-fi movie anymore, thermal imaging actually works quite well in a farm setting .A specialty thermal camera is required, it will plug and mount to your phone. Then an app will need to be downloaded that specializes in thermal imagery technology.  The thermal camera is able to show temperature of the animals, their feed, and the environment surrounding them. This gives information to the farmer that they otherwise might not have realized on their own. For example, the camera can read the temperature of a barn ceiling. Perhaps it’s warmer than the farmer thought, and the ventilation system or fans need to be turned on early in order to compensate for the temperature.

Thermal imaging can also detect hot spots in silage piles where mold or bacteria are growing. It could also help to detect mastitis in cows. Sick cows often have temperatures, which means they will show up warmer than heathier cows in the camera. Also, infected areas generally have a higher temperature.

The camera can be fairly expensive to purchase, and battery life is not known to last very long (an hour max) and is worse in cold weather.

Barn video systems – Video is another great way to keep track of your operation and make sure it is are running smoothly. There are a variety of apps that can be downloaded to keep track of cameras. Video systems are great to monitor behavior & flow of animals, keep an eye on calves, and ensure robotics are working correctly. Video can also monitor feed efficiency of cows, seeing they are eating and there is always enough feed available.

Video systems are also great for security. Large operations cannot always be watched in full, this way it is easy to keep tabs on who is coming and going. Employee monitoring is another helpful aspect of video systems. You can check productivity and work habits to see if someone needs to be trained further, and it is a great tool for safety – and some insurance companies will give a discount if a video system is installed.

The drawback? Power outages, tech updates, and user education are all issues that can come up when new technology is implemented on an operation. Enjoy the ease of being able to keep an eye on your herd from your phone, but don’t forget the “old fashioned” way, just in case.

 

Sources:

“Video Cameras and Smartphone Gadgets and Apps.” PennState Extension

Urban Agriculture – What is it exactly?

urban ag

When asked to picture what a farm looks like, almost everyone will imagine a huge field, a barn, and perhaps even some cows. This traditional farm scene is very much alive, but a new farming type has been slowly gaining popularity in the background – urban agriculture.

Urban agriculture is defined as raising animals or growing plants in and around cities. Urban agriculture can be located in a variety of places: on rooftops, in someone’s yard, schools, a vacant lot, or, if allowed, public land. Operation size can vary depending on location and resources available. A rooftop garden and a field of grain in a park could both be considered Urban Agriculture. However, the difference between urban agriculture and a community/personal garden is that urban agriculture tends to be economically driven, meaning the producers intend to sell their grown products to make a profit.

Grains, vegetables, and fruits can be grown in an urban location as long as soil, water, and sunshine are available. Depending on city laws, animals such as goats, sheep, and poultry can be raised as well. The rise in popularity of urban agriculture is tangible, 20% of the world’s food in grown in urban areas worldwide (though the percentage in the US is significantly lower than this).

Recycling is a big part of urban agriculture. Food wastes can be used as compost to create new fertilize for the garden. Rain and gray water (fairly clean water left over from baths, sinks, etc.) can be used to water the garden provided they are free from contaminants (research will need to be done to determine which soaps and bath products are OK for this process). If water is not readily available, hydroponic gardens can be set up that cycle the water continuously, which saves on cost and amount used.

However, there are some drawbacks, airborne pollution, lack of resources, and knowledge of soil nutrition and plant care are concerns that need to be addressed. Some areas set up classes or groups where everyone can be educated in bigger cities where urban agriculture is popular. This is a great way to ensure that people who may be new to the idea of farming are well educated in safety and proper growing techniques, as well as leaving a small footprint for their operation.

 

Sources:

 “Urban Agriculture: What and Why?” RUAF Foundation

Helmer, Jodi. “Urban Farms Bring Us Together, But Can They Feed Enough of Us?” Civil Eats

“What is Urban Farming?” Greens Grow

Don’t “Wing It” With Raising Chicks

chicks

How many of your local supply stores have had chicks for sale the past few weeks? Maybe you saw the tiny little fluff balls and decided, “Why not?” Now you are stuck with a dozen tiny chicks, and need to learn how to care for them – and quick!

Chicks require a warm and dry area with some sort of bedding (wood shavings work great) that is changed often to prevent illness. Chicks need a brooder guard (a tall piece of cardboard that keeps the chicks contained and protected from drafts) with a heat source and enough space to move around. Water should be available at all times, and you may want to add supplements for extra nutrition and energy into the water. Depending on the apparatus you choose to water, keep water levels low so chicks don’t drown if they fall in.

Once chicks are old enough (about 8 weeks old) they can start eating chicken feed. Feed will go from chick starter to growing ration to maintenance and laying rations as they grow. Chickens will get most of their food from pecking worms and bugs out of the ground, but will need feed as a nutritional supplement.

Around 6 weeks old, chicks are big enough to be put in a coop (outside if nice weather). Each bird should have about 2 square feet to themselves. Make sure to follow city rules for building a coop if you are starting from scratch. There should also be high fencing to protect the chickens from predators (and escaping). If you let chickens roam during the day, put them back in the coop at night for protection.

On average, at 18-20 weeks, hens will be old enough to lay eggs. Depending on the breed, chickens can lay as early as 16-17 weeks (Leghorn chickens) or as late as 25-26 weeks. Check the coop one to two times a day to see if any eggs have been laid. Be sure to dispose of any broken eggs, as hens will peck at anything that looks like food. They may start eating their own eggs.

Lastly, remember that poultry can have Salmonella on themselves and in their droppings and in or on the areas surrounding them. Please always wash hands before and after handling your new, feathery friends.

Sources:

Foley, Denise. “Everything You Need to Know About Raising Backyard Chickens.” Rodale’s Organic Life

“How to Raise Chickens.” Tractor Supply Company

“Raising Chickens 101: Bring up Baby Chicks.” The Old Farmer’s Almanac