Apps Help Manage Data for Dairymen

Fred M. Hall, Northwest Iowa Extension Dairy Specialist, Iowa State University

Fred M. Hall, Northwest Iowa Extension Dairy Specialist

At the Dairy Direction programs in December, I asked dairymen if they used a smartphone or tablet; about half did and the number of apps on their phone ranged from 0 to 15.

I’m a asking the same questions at the Dairy Days in Eastern Iowa and finding about the same results.

I explain apps are designed to provide easy access to information- data from somewhere else or data you have loaded during recordkeeping. I make a point to remind producers that we have been doing this for years- I have nearly thirty years of the cattlemen’s “red-books” in a box under my desk at home. I’ve recorded how much rain fell, calving dates, breeding dates, chemicals sprayed on fields and even phone numbers for nearly every feed salesman and mechanic that ever did business with us.

Whether you go to the App Store for an Apple product or Google Play for an Android, you have lots of choices. I ask myself, what do I really need to have the app do? Do I just want to track the butter and cheese market or find the cash price of corn at locations within 20 miles of home? Or do I want an app that will record the information I need when applying a restricted use pesticide? Knowing how you will use the information from the app is vital to picking the right one.

Equally important is knowing the information is correct and current. Apps from Extension Services, USDA, and the state departments of agriculture are reliable; sometimes apps from the local feed store or farm store is better at promoting their own products that supplying researched-based information.

The issues of battery usage and data usage will quickly get your attention. Some apps keep working in the background all the time, even when you aren’t using them. They’re pinging the internet and using motion sensors, all of it draining the battery. Feature-rich apps like Facebook and Google Maps fit into this category. User controlled apps like Netflix and Snapchat also burn battery life, but you control turning them off and on.

You can generally check what apps are using the most power by clicking on your battery icon before you charge the phone and comparing the graphs.

It’s not surprising that many of the “battery sapping” apps also hog data and for exactly the same reason- they are running in the background without you even knowing it. It’s a pain, but toggling off cellular access for any app is possible. Always accessing available wi-fi removes the data usage from your phone, so it’s my first move whether it’s at the office, motel or Casey’s- if I see they have free wi-fi, I’m on it.

Whether you use a phone or a tablet, one of the things I find most useful is record-keeping in the field. Farm Logs and Field Records are both easy to use and Evernote lets me jot down random notes so I don’t have to depend on my memory.

At one of our first meetings, a producer introduced me to MileIQ. He had been through an audit and had to document business mileage. MileIQ records each trip you make, and gives to the ability to classify it as business or personal plus at the end of each month you have the option to receive an email printout of business mileage.

For dairymen, I have loaded Cow Manager, PCDART, Dairy Cents, and Hay Price Calculator. All are interactive requiring information from the user. Cow Manger requires communication with ear tags and PCDART uses information from dairy records.

If you have an app that you find especially useful, please let me know about it. I’m working on a directory of dairy apps to help producers find apps that are useful.

This article is reproduced with permission from the I-29 Moo University February e-newsletter

The I-29 Moo University is represented by dairy extension educators and allied partners from Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota.