Feeding cattle using a bar code is one of many
innovative things that students in the Agriculture Business & Management
Technology program at Southeast Community College are learning.
“We’re following a tradition
of innovation,” said Alex Goeckel, a livestock instructor in the program at SCC’s
The GrowSafe feeding system
is one of the latest forms of technology the Ag program is using to teach
students. By putting an electronic identification tag in the animal’s ear, it
has a unique code that is specific to only that animal. Students can monitor
how much feed each animal is eating at any given time.
“It tells us about individual
behavior of cattle and when they consume the most feed,” Goeckel said.
Every time the animal is at
the feed bunk, the tag is scanned and the weight is measured. Data is then
collected and wirelessly transferred to a computer with the results. Goeckel
says the advantage of this system is to monitor the health of the animal, the
genetic performance and feed efficiency.
“Seventy-five percent of all
livestock costs are associated with feed,” Goeckel said. “If a bull does well,
we can pick it out and his progeny will also do well because it’s genetic.”
Goeckel says SCC has
frequently been one of the leading community colleges in agricultural
innovation. He said SCC was one of the first to utilize artificial insemination,
ultrasounds and Precision Agriculture, and now with the feed intake monitoring system.
“This isn’t the first piece
of technology, just another feather in our cap,” he added.
The GrowSafe model cost
$82,500 and was paid for by a grant from the Department of Labor’s Trade
Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training. Goeckel says only
one other community college in the region has it, and it’s beneficial to the
students who may use this experience in an internship or a job.
Goeckel says the only
constant in the field of agriculture is change.
“We will continue to see technology
that helps us measure the outcomes of our production,” he said. “Technology won’t
replace skilled workers, but skilled workers who know how to utilize technology
will probably replace those workers who do not.”
Goeckel grew up on a farm in
Kansas and continues to farm with his brothers there. One of the reasons he
became an Ag instructor is because the average age of farmers continues to increase,
and he wants to help recruit smart, informed people to the field. Recruiting
students can be a challenge.
“Our marketing is like a
small-town store,” he said. “It’s hard to get them in the door, but once they
get in the door to see what we do, then they’re impressed and want to become
part of it.”
Goeckel hopes the continued
innovation on the campus and the hands-on experience will be a good base to
start students’ careers.
“We want students to know
when they leave here they don’t stop learning, they start learning,” he said.
This product is 75% funded by a $2,507,462
U.S. Dept. of Labor TAACCCT grant. Veterans are entitled to Priority Service.
SCC is an equal opportunity institution.