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Taking it to the next level

Progressive Dairyman Editor Emily Caldwell Published on 11 September 2015

Progressive Dairyman prides itself on highlighting new technologies for dairy producers, and this issue’s cover image and accompanying stories here and here are the result of several months of discussion and planning.

The dairy industry is just beginning to explore the potential uses and challenges to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, but where they seem to be most applicable so far are over cropfields and livestock pens. Specific to dairy cattle, UAVs can monitor estrus and help in early disease detection via thermal sensors.

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The future uses of UAVs on dairies remain to be seen, but the core interest in this technology is more and better data to enable dairy producers to better care for their animals. It’s a new development in an ever-changing and progressive industry.

And though some of the non-ag crowd may think the operators of farms using this technology are like the robot pictured on the cover, we know there’s a vital human element involved.

I was reminded of the role humans play in such technological advancements through a “how we got engaged” story.

Sarah Weimer is a friend of mine from our college days at Penn State. Through the magic of Facebook, I’ve been able to follow her career and love life. Her news feed over the past few months had me particularly intrigued.

Sarah moved to Michigan about a year ago with her role as an associate territory business manager with Zoetis. Shortly after, she met Kevin Messing, an agriculturalist with Michigan Sugar Company.

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Kevin happens to be the brother of Ashley Messing-Kennedy, who regularly writes for Progressive Dairyman as a HERd Management columnist and freelance writer. It’s connections like this that remind me how small of a world the dairy industry is.

After about 11 months of dating, Kevin decided it was time to pop the question. He would do so in a unique way. This past July, Sarah was home in Pennsylvania for a friend’s wedding and was wrapped up in getting ready for the festivities. Kevin had brought along his drone – which he regularly uses to check sugar beet fields during work hours – and offered to take aerial photos of Sarah’s family’s farm.

He was supposed to get this done while Sarah was getting ready for the wedding on a Saturday, but he claimed that Sarah’s father, Mike, had roped him into washing heifers instead. So the aerial picture-taking had to wait until Sunday, with Sarah present.

Sarah was able to watch footage from the UAV in real-time on a smartphone. As the drone flew over the farm and then across to the farm’s pond, Sarah realized something was odd with the ground surrounding the pond.

“I said, ‘What is that white stuff?’” she recalls.

It turns out Kevin – with the help of Mike – had spelled out in white paint, “Sarah, will you marry me?” on the lower side of the pond.

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Through the drone footage, Sarah figured out what was happening about the same time that Kevin quickly knelt down on one knee and said, “So, will you?”

She said yes, Kevin placed a diamond ring on her finger, and Sarah’s family hurried out to celebrate with the couple.

It’s definitely one of the most creative engagement stories I’ve ever heard. While I’m guessing that Kevin could have been just as creative with a proposal that didn’t involve flying objects, it’s cool that the UAV allowed him to take getting engaged to a whole new level and set a new standard for ag-related engagements everywhere.

Progressive technology like drones isn’t going to replace the need for human involvement. It just allows us to do our jobs easier, with better data and in a much cooler way.  PD

PHOTO: Photo courtesy Kevin Messing and Sarah Weimer.

Emily Caldwell
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Editor's note: Kevin and Sarah (Weimer) Messing tied the knot on Sept. 10, 2016. Progressive Dairyman wishes them a lifetime of happiness. Photo courtesy of Beth Raney, aunt of the bride.

Messing wedding

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