Beyond seed and soil: Farmers’ high-tech tools increase productivity

Daily Chronicle, Illinois


Bert Hueber may use an ultrasound machine for his job, but he doesn’t work for a hospital or a medical clinic.

Hueber is a partner in Beef Performance Technology, and takes the ultrasound machine and the “heavy-duty laptop” connected to it to cattle operations around the area.

He isn’t looking for medical information: The ultrasounds let him “see” the quality of beef on a steer, and the computer analyzes the image to project how many more days the steer should be fed for the meat to reach its optimal grade.

“It’s a marketing tool,” he said Wednesday as he passed the ultrasound wand over the rib-eye portion of a steer standing on a massive scale in the cattle confinement building on the J. Willrett farm in Malta. “It gives producers more information to use in their marketing.”

Ultrasounds are just one of a bevy of high-tech tools today’s farmers use. With the high cost of input such as seed, feed and fertilizer, farmers have always been early adopters of tools to help them get the most out of every head of livestock and every acre of land, Clare farmer Tracy Jones said.

“We’re great users of technology,” he said. “I’m basically farming three times the amount of ground as when I started farming with my dad in 1980, and I’m doing it with the same amount of labor. … Over the last 20 years, we’ve been great adopters and great beneficiaries of technology.”

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