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Farmer Tests New Farm Equipment
For every piece of farm equipment that hits the market, there should be a farmer somewhere who has tested it. For 11 manufacturers of dairy equipment all over the United States, the guinea pig is Ivan Grein of Brighton, Colorado.
Grein has been testing all types of equipment for more than 20 years, and the rewards have come in terms of a better, more productive dairy herd. He is one of a growing number of farmers who are testing the newest farm equipment, not for a paycheck, but for the plusses gained through having the most modern equipment available on his farm relatively free of charge.
As his herd of 85 Holstein cows go through the milking parlor, their production, temperature and other pertinent data is electronically metered and displayed on a computer board outside each of three inline stalls. Automatic take-offs remove the equipment and washers clean the equipment between cows. The computerized equipment is the latest in a series of 10 to 15 computer tools Grein has tested on-the-job, and a pile of cardboard boxes in storage beside the yellow-and-white milking parlor holds the next computer equipment to be tested.
"A piece of equipment that works great in the laboratory might not work too great in a barn where you get water, power surges and dirt," Grein says. "That's why they need me."
Grein helped a manufacturer develop a system to automatically feed his dairy cows. It was a good and relatively simple concept, but it took a producer to get the details down pat. For example, Grein fine-tuned the system so that it feeds a cow a little at a time until she completes her ration, so that if she leaves the feeder, no feed is wasted or miscalculated.
Inside the house, Grein taps away on the keyboard of a new computer provided by a company for him to evaluate and test dairy software. About $4,000 in programs and a computer outweighed the time and frustration of learning to operate the machine and discovering and over-coming a problem in the program.
The equipment the dairyman tests is not all frills and fancy digital readouts though. The Head Acres Dairy barn is full of all types of test items, from rubber mats the milkers stand on to eartags on the cows and mastitis detectors. The smallest items a base on the milk meter, inflations for milking, hoses can all fail or succeed for the tiniest of reasons. Something as small as the shape or crimp on an eartag can cause problems on the market or the color of plastic near a sensor can cause a malfunction. Grein says it is his job to find those problems.
Testing equipment has its draw-backs, Grein says. Although the equipment he receives is usually in the final stages of development, he says it rarely works perfectly the first time. It normally takes several changes to make the equipment farm-proof. But he is under no obligation to keep using any equipment, and will take it out of operation if there are serious problems and replace it with other equipment to be tested.
He says very little extra time is required beyond the normal routine of work, but the testing requires patience.
Positive or negative, the manufacturing companies are anxious to hear the results of his testing, which ranges from quality testing where he might look over and use a batch of standard equipment, to product development where he works with the manufacturer to improve the design and make it work on-farm.
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Ivan Grein, 16616 E. 168th Ave., Brighton, CO 80601, (ph 303 659-0453).
Story and photo reprinted courtesy Colorado Department of Agriculture.

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1987 - Volume #11, Issue #1