Sustainability | Willis Ranch

posted on Wednesday, April 5, 2023 in Sustainability

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Every year in the fall, thousands of Sandhill cranes invade the barley fields at Willis Ranch in Cokeville, WY during their seasonal migration, causing a significant amount of loss by eating and trampling down the crop. When the owner, James Willis, reported the issue to the Fish and Game, they would send somebody to evaluate the damage. The examiner would attempt to count the birds and then calculate how much each bird consumes per day. This calculation never accounted for much as the counts were mostly based on estimations. James insisted the damage was significantly higher, but his claims were disregarded. Without a way to prove otherwise, he accepted whatever reimbursement they would give him.

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Over the past several years, James mapped and created boundaries for all his fields. He set up his equipment to document work, including yield, from his John Deere Combine. After he harvested the barley, his Stotz Precision specialist was able to look at the yield maps and see exactly where the damaged areas were located. In John Deere Operations Center, his specialist mapped out the sections that were damaged and created yield reports for those sections compared to the rest of the field that wasn't damaged. In this field, the damage was up to 75 bushels per acre of loss. Stotz Equipment provided these reports to the Fish and Game, along with his insurance companies. Everyone accepted the data and paid for the full amount of the damage, which totaled over $15,000. Previously, James would only receive a few thousand dollars.

This year, Willis Ranch also suffered crop damage from hailstorms. Stotz Precision was able to utilize the same approach and technology in order to gather yield data on the affected fields, pulling reports for insurance that showed the exact amount of loss.

With data records collected from the past several years, James can start variable rating his seed and fertilizer inputs. By doing this, he makes sure every place in the field is getting the most efficient amount of seed and fertilizer, without overapplying or underapplying. On one field, his barley yields have increased from 102 bushels per acre to 142 bushels per acre in just three years, while utilizing less seed and fertilizer in the process.

James Willis’s proactive approach to mapping his fields, along with the help of Stotz Precision and John Deere technologies, has led to a data-driven process to create reports for any damage he may receive in the future. These reports have become even more valuable over the years. Leveraging the data to use less inputs, while increasing yields, has grown his profitability significantly.

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