What’s New & Calendar of Events

Virtual Fencing Research

(Posted March 5, 2021)

Virtual fence (VF) neckbands are being studied as a way to contain cows within a designated area without the need for physical fencing using a paired audio tone and electrical pulse. Here are abstracts of five articles published in 2020 and 2021 on VF technology.  These publications are just a selection of the ongoing research on this topic and highlights the positive impacts of predictable and controllable electrical stimulus on animal agriculture.

Updated Chapter on Stray Voltage in the Merck Veterinary Manual

(Posted March 2, 2021)

The chapter in the Merck Veterinary manual on stray voltage and animal housing was been updated in February 2021. The Merck manual has been a trusted provider of veterinary information since 1955.  The manual is now published on-line with access open to all. In addition to the chapter on stray voltage, it contains a wealth of information on other health conditions for farm animals. The entries are concise and expressed in a way to be accessible to the non-veterinary audience.  It’s a great source to find out more about animal health issues.

Professional Development Opportunities

  • Three classes in Stray Voltage Investigation for dairy producers and agricultural professionals are typically held each year. Stray Voltage Investigator’s Classes were developed by the University of Wisconsin, Public Service Commission of Wisconsin, and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection.
  • In response to requests from the Wisconsin State government as well as the UW-Madison campus, we have postponed the introductory stray voltage investigators courses originally scheduled for May of 2020.  We traditionally run the advanced analysis course in early October. We will stay in sequence and offer the introductory and field testing courses next, followed by the advanced analysis course.  We will assess the situation in July and determine if one or more courses will be offered in October of 2020.
  • Instructors are Paul Ortmann of Idaho Power, Doug Reinemann of the University of Wisconsin, and Robert Fick, Brian Costello, and Michael Haas of Alliant Energy.
  • To get an idea of what the Intro and Intermediate classes will cover, see the brochure for the cancelled spring class.
  • To get an idea of what the advanced class covers, see last year’s brochure.

MREC Annual Conference and Presentations

  • The 2020 MREC Rural Energy Conference was held February 12-14 at the Radisson Hotel in La Crosse, Wisconsin. See the 2020 archives for presentations. Speakers presented about proper stray voltage measurement techniques, new challenges for regional energy transmission with wind and solar power generation, impact of trade agreements on farmers, energy use comparison of robotic milking compared to other systems, carbon footprint of swine systems, stray voltage effects on cow health, livestock used to manage land under solar arrays, a comparison of different types of dairy farms and their energy use, applied ethics, first hand experiences of managing a large scale robotic dairy, and converting digesters to natural gas.
  • A pre-conference workshop on February 12, 2020 covered Updates on Dairy Farm Management.

Rural Electrification in the News

The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) dedicated a historic plaque on April 11, 2019, to celebrate a historic event in rural electrification. In the 1920’s the Alabama Power Company installed a rural electric line that provided service to ten farms, a cotton gin, and a dairy. They then met with the head of Auburn University’s Agricultural Engineering Department, Mark Nichols, to discuss rural electrification. The plaque commemorates the establishment of the first cooperative program for rural electrification between a power company and an agricultural engineering department.  Read more here.

Credit for Professional Training:

    • If you participated in an educational opportunity hosted by the Midwest Rural Energy Council and would like information on how to document instructional hours for professional training credit, click here.  You can get documentation for participation in the MREC Annual Conference or the Stray Voltage Investigator’s Trainings.


Archives of the brochures and presentations from previous annual  MREC conferences can be found here.