Albion dairy farm uses technology to increase efficiency

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ALBION, NY — In recent years, new tools have made life a little easier for New York farmers. Things like robots, temperature sensors, and GPS technology.

These advances have made work more efficient, greener, and even more consumer friendly.

For example, farmers no longer have to spread entire fields with water, fertilizer and pesticides. Instead, they can target very specific areas or even treat individual plants differently. This leads to higher crop productivity and the reduced use of water and pesticides results in lower food costs. In addition, fewer chemicals end up in rivers and groundwater.

Technology is a big part of dairy farmer Jody Neal’s operation. He was born into farming.

“Our farm’s name is Orleans Poverty Hill Farm,” he said. “Currently we milk about 570 cows.”

It wasn’t always his first choice.

“I graduated high school in 1992 and went to Cornell University with the intention of never milking a cow again in my life,” Neal said.

He thought he wanted to be a vet. But dairying is in his blood.

“Being on the farm is a passion of mine,” Neal said. “I’ve always enjoyed it, the projects, the crafting.”

Handicrafts and technology play an important role for him.

“This activity tag system is like putting a stethoscope on a cow 24 hours a day,” Neal said. “I can tell the difference between lying there chewing the cud and eating up there.”

Everything depends on the technology. From lighting to feeding to liquid manure cleaning, there is an app for everything.

“One of the things we’re trying to do is how we can make the work of people on the farm easier,” Neal said.

The one most responsible for the devices that help run the farm isn’t even on the farm right now.

“I like to see what I’ve done and of course I’m doing well,” said Jayden Neal, Jody’s son.

Jayden is studying robotics and mechanical engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Jayden has developed an udder cleaner to help prepare cows for milking. It took some time.

“A lot of trial and error,” Jayden said. “I’ve lost count of all the reworks we’ve gone through. But this has been the case for several years and it is definitely a different device than when we started.”

The Neals have a patent for the udder washer. While these inventions are nice, they have one purpose: to make the farm run more efficiently.

“If you were a hard worker, you could be a successful farmer,” Neal said. “And my dad always said, ‘Work smarter, not harder.’ ”

As his father once thought, Jayden doesn’t see himself milking cows. His work helps the family business function better.

“The interesting part is usually where we end up, not where we originally wanted to go,” Neal said.

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