More uptime in the field and manure management policies is driving precision sales opportunities for Wisconsin dealer.

Jack Zemlicka, Technology Editor

While Wisconsin is known for its dairy farming, the state is less synonymous with precision farming.

Dairy farmers — especially smaller operators — have been a tough technology market to crack, notes Nick Frautschy, precision farming specialist at Ritchie’s Implement, a Case IH dealer in Cobb, Wis.

But he is starting to get some traction with local dairy producers in Wisconsin who are gradually embracing the benefits of precision tools.

“As far as the smaller dairy farmers that are out there, we’re trying to get out after them, putting kits together with deals to get auto-guidance started,” Frautschy says. “There is a cost savings there especially in their self-propelled windrowers.”

Although not an easy sell, Frautschy has had success showing dairy farmers the value of GPS in reducing operator fatigue.

They are mowing sometimes five crops a year, Frautschy notes, which means five passes through the field.

“If you can save a guy one extra trip, how much is that saving him on his machine?” he says.  “That is really starting to get these guys’ heads turning out here.”

What has worked best for Frautschy is being upfront with a dairy customer on how auto-guidance will allow them to get more windrowing done in a day.

“When you tell a guy you can get him 150 more acres in a day and you can show him 150 more acres a day — that sells it,” he says. “That’s exactly what we had happen with the first one we sold.”

Ritchie’s offers auto-guidance on their Claas choppers, but Frautschy says the ability to also do yield and moisture mapping in the machine will be an added incentive for dairy farmers.

“It’s going to be coming real quick, and we’re starting to get interest there as well,” he says.

Timing is also a key in getting dairy farmers to make the investment in precision technology, Frautschy says. It’s not uncommon that dairy producers have older farm equipment and won’t consider spending the money on precision technology until they trade in their machinery.

“If they are running a planter that’s 15 years old, realistically, they are going to want to trade that in the next year or two and won’t want to dump $9,000 in new technology on it,” Frautschy says. “They will wait for that trade and then try to finance everything in with it and it makes it a lot easier.”

But some dairy farmers may be looking at precision technology sooner rather than later, says Kevin Depies, precision farming specialist at Ritchie’s, because of stricter manure management policies.

As the government moves toward tighter restrictions on where farmers are putting their manure — and how much of it they’re using — he says GPS and mapping will provide detailed data to track application.

“I see this as a big area in the next two or three years. As those regulations come through, GPS with nutrient management capacities are going to go hand-in-hand with manure management,” Depies notes. “We’ve got the capacity to tie into flow meters and get as-applied maps. Growers can take those maps right up to NRCS office or whoever is requesting their data and they can have hard proof of what they put on and where they put it.”