Hay and forage producers can track production quality and costs with Case IH’s new AFS Connect telematics packages
The sight of a tractor and heavy disc breaking up hay and pasture land in mixed farming areas hasn’t exactly been a rare one in the last couple of years. Strong grain and oilseeds prices have been driving farm incomes and pulling acres aware from hay and forage production.
“We’re seeing a reduction in hay acreage across North America,” says Kevin Shinners, PhD, professor of agricultural engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “Because of high commodity prices in grain, we’ve seen a lot of hay ground ploughed under and put into row crops. With acreage dwindling, hay and forage producers have to do everything possible to get all we can out of every acre.”
Shinners made those comments through a series of press releases issued by Case IH, which were meant to highlight that company’s haying equipment line and new telematics offerings. Through its new AFS division, which was created last fall, Case IH has just introduced two telematics products, AFS Connect Manager and AFS Connect Executive. They include features targeted specifically at hay and forage growers. The company says it intends to bring the same technology advantages that have driven increased management possibilities in grain production to the feed sector. And Shinners thinks that’s a good idea.
“With telematics, farmers can remotely capture data from harvesters and tractors,” he says. “If we can track things like fuel use and tonnage in each field, we can really start to get a handle on costs, figure out where there are inefficiencies and determine how to overcome those problems.”
And he sees a learning curve ahead for hay producers who want to take advantage of those telematics products. “As researchers, we need to help producers exploit that information to make management decisions,” he continues.
The features included in Case IH’s AFS Connect telematics products allow farm managers to keep track of all the details around the cost of producing bales, along with identifying areas for increasing efficiencies. “With telematics, we’ll also be able to direct all that information to an office computer, along with real-time information about how the equipment is operating, how much fuel is being used, engine speed, etc.,” says Brett DeVries, Case IH hay and forage marketing manager.
Case IH dealers will be able to retrofit the new telematics packages onto both Case IH and competitive equipment brands as part of their commercial introduction this spring.
The company is pairing those new AFS capabilities with options on its line of haying equipment, which capture data that enhances the telematics products. “With a bale weight system, you can monitor and control bale density, shape, weight and length, all from the cab,” DeVries explains. “You can monitor the moisture content in each bale, so you know exactly what you’re putting up.”
To give farmers the ability to keep detailed records of each bale made, Case IH dealers will also be selling radio frequency identification (RFID) tags growers can attach to each bale to profile its specific quality data.
“An RFID tag on a bale can store a lot of important information related to the quality of the bale,” says Shinners. “It includes which field it’s from, where in the field it was made in and the bale’s moisture content. With that information, a producer can feed the highest-moisture bales sooner and store the driest-moisture bales longer. The information can help a producer make decisions on which bales to use first and how to price them.”
If hay growers find they need to follow the corporate mantra of “doing more with less” to keep up production levels with fewer acres, telematics may play a role just as important for them as it promises to be for grain and oilseeds growers. †