Progressive Dairyman Editor Walt Cooley attended World Ag Expo in Tulare, California, Feb. 14-16, 2017. He walked the show looking for new products and industry trends. Below are his thoughts on what he found.

Cooley walt polo
Editor and Podcast Host / Progressive Dairy

Click on the links below to navigate to the "cool stuff" that captures your interest. 

California Dairies Inc. sign

Co-ops wooing dairy producers

California’s milk production has been on the decline in the past two years. Since the end of 2014, milk production in California has declined year-over-year in 21 out of 24 months. The massive amount of milk processing in California now doesn’t have enough milk to keep plants full. That’s got milk processors and co-ops getting more competitive for what in-state milk is available.

I saw several events at the show aimed at wooing dairymen. Dairy Farmers of America hosted a reception the first night of the show and invited every single dairy producer in the state of California – member or not – to attend. California Dairies Inc. had its members-only tent open throughout the show for the fourth consecutive year. This year the tent had glass windows to let in more light. (Or as I saw it, so that passersby could see who was a member with access and who was not.)

One dairyman that I spoke with said co-ops aren’t the only ones getting more aggressive at procurement. Direct shippers in California are vying for milk too. This year is the first in more than a decade that he said he had seen this much competition for milk. He’s recently heard of premiums of up to 20 cents per hundredweight for a dairyman willing to switch allegiances.


Afimilk sign

DairyComp 305 playing nice with others

Valley Ag Software’s DairyComp 305, the industry’s most pervasively used herd management software, was showcased in several new product marketings.

For example, AfiMilk’s latest herd management software, AfiFarm 5.2, was promoting better synchronization with DairyComp 305. Also, a new beta software offering from Virtus Nutrition, MyDairyDashboard, promised daily integration with DairyComp 305. The initial launch of the dashboard will integrate herd and feed management software data (from DairyComp 305 and EZ Feed), and weather and co-op data (from CDI, DFA, Hilmar and Land O’Lakes). The dashboard will use these sources to calculate and then graphically display a dairy’s fat-corrected milk production, total fat and protein production, 21-day pregnancy rate, feed efficiency and other key indicators.

new baler classifications

New hay bale classification system

AGCO introduced a new system for classifying square bales of forage based upon the bale’s finished density. Under the system, a baler’s plunger load will be used to determine the class of bale it produces. According to the company, plunger load, or the force applied against a flake of forage in the bale chamber, is the most measurable factor impacting finished bale density. Plunger load is measured in kilonewtons (kN) of force. One kilonewton equals 224.8 pounds of force.

So, for example, 3X4 or 4X4 hay bales found on large dairies would be considered a Class 5 or Class 6 bale. These bales typically weigh between 1,000 and 2,000 pounds, and are created with 325 to 574 kilonewtons of force. That means a bale produced in one of these categories undergoes at least 73,000 pounds of pressure, and maybe as much as 129,000 pounds of pressure, during baling.

straw bedding spreader

New straw bedding spreader

A new bedding spreader from Hatfield Manufacturing can hold up to two 4X4 straw bales and bed from its backside or a side-chute. The unique aspect of the unit is that it doesn’t “chop and blow” straw, but rather “tears and conveys” it into pens or stalls. The unit was designed with calf ranches in mind.

“With this unit, you’re not chopping straw into really fine pieces and shooting it out of a pipe,” says Hatfield Manufacturing’s sales manager Kade Walker. “Short pieces of straw and dust can cause respiratory problems in calves. Our unit has way less dust than a blower-type unit. This machine makes a 6- to 10-inch piece of straw that gets gently conveyed into a pen.”

The unit’s flat bed can be elevated to bed over a hutch. Depending on bedding depth, the unit when loaded with two bales could bed about 100 calf hutches in less than 30 minutes.

“There’s been a lot of interest this winter for this unit with all the wet weather in the West,” Walker says.

commercial drone

New fixed-wing commercial drone and companion software

This fixed-wing drone from AeroVironment takes off and lands vertically and switches to horizontal flight after takeoff. Its fixed wings give it more than double the flight time (45 minutes) of a propeller-lifted drone. During one flight, the drone can cover as many as 400 acres.

The unit can be programmed to fly a predetermined pattern over fields. It carries an 18 megapixel RGB camera and 18 megapixel multi-spectral camera.

The demo I watched showed how the drone’s companion software stitches the images it captured together to display the overall health of a field of crops. The commercial launch of the product will target high-value crops such as orchards or grapes, but the company said the drone could just as easily be used to assess the health of a field of corn for silage. I thought it was a cool glimpse as to what might be forthcoming for dairy producers in a few years.

TIE fighter

Star Wars TIE fighter made out of steel

This last cool thing I saw didn’t fly or move, but even just sitting there, it stopped a lot of traffic. This 40 percent scale model of an iconic Star Wars TIE fighter is made from 2,100 pounds of stainless steel and took 200 hours to build. The “out of this world” aircraft was on display at Berlinger Steel and Supply Co.’s booth. The machine shop cuts replacement parts and provides general agricultural equipment support. While not for sale, the shop said it would probably price the product of its unique engineering at $35,000.

Mitch Gerlinger, one of the employees working the booths, said the company drove the TIE fighter to the show on the back of a trailer for four hours from the shop’s home base in Redding, California. More than nine out of 10 cars they passed on the freeway reacted in some way to the unique creation.

“I wish I would have had a rear-facing dash-camera to record all of the looks we got driving down here,” Gerlinger says.

The unit was so heavy it had to remain on the trailer during the show, counterbalanced by a heavy piece of machining equipment in front of it that was for sale.

“We’re not a heavy-hitting sales booth,” Gerlinger says. “We’re just here to showcase what we can do.”

Indeed they did.  end mark

See the other new products launched at the show this year that were previewed prior to the opening of the show here.

Walt Cooley

PHOTO 1: World Ag Expo was held Feb. 14-16, 2017, in Tulare, California.

PHOTO 2: Dairy producers wait in line to enter California Dairies Inc.’s private reception at World Ag Expo.

PHOTO 3: This signage at the show promotes a new integration of one company’s products with Valley Ag Software’s DairyComp 305.

PHOTO 4: A new baler classification system introduced by AGCO is patterned after the classification system for combines. The difference is that instead of comparing them based on horsepower, they will be compared by baler plunger force.

PHOTO 5: This new piece of equipment can bed 100 calf hutches in less than 30 minutes. The straw it produces is also of longer length than other bedders.

PHOTO 6: This commercial drone takes off and lands vertically yet can also self-navigate horizontally.

PHOTO 7: This replica of a Star Wars TIE fighter took more than 200 hours to build and used 2,100 pounds of stainless steel. Photos by Walt Cooley.