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UI plans ag technology ‘boot camp’ in Pocatello

Based on the popularity of an agricultural technology session last winter during its annual agricultural outlook seminar, University of Idaho Extension is planning an event focused on agricultural technology in Pocatello.
John O’Connell

Capital Press

Published on September 21, 2017 9:38AM

Electronic cattle tags are read as part of a system developed by Fort Supply Technologies of Kaysville, Utah, to compile data on cattle operations and predict when cattle may become sick based on how often a cow associated with a specific ear tag needs to drink from its trough. The technology will be featured in an ag technology event scheduled for Jan. 4 in Pocatello.

Courtesy of Nephi Harvey

Electronic cattle tags are read as part of a system developed by Fort Supply Technologies of Kaysville, Utah, to compile data on cattle operations and predict when cattle may become sick based on how often a cow associated with a specific ear tag needs to drink from its trough. The technology will be featured in an ag technology event scheduled for Jan. 4 in Pocatello.


POCATELLO, Idaho — Nephi Harvey’s company has developed technology that enables feedlot operators to diagnose sick cattle about two days before clear symptoms surface by tracking how often they drink from the watering trough.

Harvey, with Fort Supply in Kaysville, Utah, will be among the presenters featuring the latest innovations in crop and livestock production at an Ag Tech Boot Camp, scheduled for 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Jan. 4 at Idaho State University’s Roy F. Christensen Building.

University of Idaho Extension officials, private industry representatives and state commodity group leaders have formed an informal committee to plan the inaugural event, which is supported by the USDA Risk Management Agency. Admission will be $30, and organizers expect a crowd of about 100 people. Jon Hogge, UI’s Extension cereals educator for Eastern Idaho who is heading the planning committee, said the event will likely rotate among different regions of the state in the future.

Organizers are also mulling a possible trade show and a second day of activities, focused on technology demonstrations.

“These types of educational conferences are important because a lot of producers don’t know what’s out there that may help them with just a little bit of change in what they’re doing,” Harvey said. “We have to be making more money per animal, not just have more animals making less money.”

Harvey’s animal health-monitoring system uses electronic ear tags that can be read from as far away as 25 feet, reducing labor and animal handling. An antenna by the watering trough records when a given ear tag approaches. The company’s algorithm analyzes deviations to normal drinking, factoring in temperature and humidity data from a weather station.

Harvey said he’s approached researchers, including from University of Idaho, about conducting third-party studies on his products. His company has found the producers quickly recoup their investments — $3,500 per pen, plus a monthly charge of 25 cents per head — by reducing livestock mortality and weight loss, as they can take proactive steps to boost cattle immune systems.

The event’s keynote speaker will be Brent Hillman, with Progressive Crop Systems in Shelley. Hogge said Hillman’s staff helps producers integrate yield monitoring equipment into their harvests, and to use the data effectively in making decisions.

Hogge said other event topics may include drones, variable-rate fertilizer, irrigation innovations, running pivots using a cell phone and other topics commodity group leaders may suggest. He’s planning a panel discussion featuring farmers who have effectively implemented technology into their businesses.

Les Nunn, an event organizer with Bear Lake County Extension, anticipates ranchers will be especially interested in advancements in genomics and genetic testing of livestock.

Laura Johnson, with the state Department of Agriculture, said last winter, during an annual agricultural outlook seminar, UI Extension hosted a two-hour discussion on agricultural technology. Surveys of attendees showed the session was extremely popular and prompted UI to “look at something bigger,” she said.



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