Technologies abound on our dairy farms. Everything from mixer wagons to herd management software to activity or rumination collars help dairy businesses operate smoothly and more effectively. Still, that list doesn’t even include the most accessible piece of technology most of us carry around and use every day — our cellphones.
These machines make our personal lives more connected, informed, and prepared, and they can do the same for our work lives. Many farmers already make good use of the smartphone applications for their herd management systems, genetic programs, or advocacy platforms like Facebook or YouTube. As they say, there is an app for everything.
Farming is no different, and to sort out some of the top-rated apps farmers use in their operations, Iowa State University dairy extension specialists surveyed producers on their favorites. Jennifer Bentley and Fred Hall shared highlights during a World Dairy Expo seminar. If you’re looking to streamline dairy tasks into the palm of your hand, check out these options.
In the field:
• Ag Tools: Designed by the Noble Research Institute, this app puts may of the calculations and tools you may need every day together into one location. Calculators currently available include everything from body condition score change and breeding season to pond fish stocking and planter calibration.
• Picture Insect: This free app allows you to snap a picture of any insect you may encounter and quickly and easily identify it. Sometimes, the app may also be able to offer suggestions on a class of chemicals to treat them with, Hall added.
• PictureThis: There are multiple options for apps that are able to identify plants from a user-submitted photo, but Hall identified PictureThis as particularly good for native, invasive, and exotic weeds. The program has a database of over 10,000 plants.
Team communication and tasks:
• Trello: You probably have multiple lists, clipboards, and whiteboards scattered around the farm to keep track of cows to treat or move, tasks to complete, and more. Bentley said that one producer told her that Trello, with its collaborative lists, boards, and tasks, replaced all the whiteboards they had in their barns. Each employee can have their own to-do list, and teams can work together on other lists that require multiple people to complete different parts of the job. Because it’s on their phone, the next task is always easily accessible.
• Evernote: A similar tool, but not quite as list-focused, is Evernote. This tool allows notes to be synched across all devices with the app, so teams can share photos, lists, and reminders with each other. Bentley described that one farm used it for their calf employees to share animal developments (in the form of photos) and treatments across shifts so everyone was on the same page. One person could also sync notes across their phone, tablet, and laptop, for example, to always have somewhere to jot down things like supplies that need ordered or points for an employee review.
• GroupMe: Group text messages are useful for quick conversation, but they can get cluttered or lost between Android and iOS devices. GroupMe is an easy way to simplify group messages between people who need to stay in contact with one another, such as the milking team. You can find different conversations in one place without adding multiple phone numbers to your contacts.
Any tool that can help your dairy perform more effectively can make a difference in how your cows are cared for and employees do their best job. The biggest part necessary for these tools is probably already in your pocket — the rest is just a few taps away!
Katelyn Allen joined the Hoard’s Dairyman team as the Publications Editor in August 2019 and is now an associate editor. Katelyn is a 2019 graduate of Virginia Tech, where she majored in dairy science and minored in communication. Katelyn grew up on her family’s registered Holstein dairy, Glen-Toctin Farm, in Jefferson, Md.