Sept. 26 2012 09:42 AM

Do you need a smartphone? Nope. Could your farm afford one? Probably.

by Lucas Sjostrom, Hoard's Dairyman Associate Editor

On the farm, the need for a smartphone depends on the user. But I could make the case that each farm could have one if they wanted. Your extra costs are about $100 initially (over two years) for the phone, plus about $40 worth of extra data fees per month assuming you already have a cellphone. That equates to what we'll call $1,100 over two years once you add insurance, a case and a car charger. Can you get $1.45 per day paid back on the farm? Let's try.

Time is the big benefit
One of the biggest savings you might see with a smartphone is time. Assuming you already have a cellphone, you can already make calls from the barn or middle of a field. But smartphones give you access to the Internet and applications that could save you a few minutes per day here or there. If you can save 10 minutes a day, and pay yourself just $15 per hour, working 350 days per year, that's $1,050 over two years. At 15 minutes per day, you've paid for the phone in just one year.

Here are a few ways to save 10 minutes per day:

The calendar function could help you remember appointments or plan ahead for future meetings. Or, open a Google account and use the Google Calendar to synchronize information, then you can go to to access the calendar anywhere you have Internet access. If you get the hang of using the alarms and remembering to hit save, this could easily save you 5 minutes per day. Of course, a few days each year the calendar alarm could save your marriage.

Herd management software is a growing part of cellphone use on farms. Check with your herd management software company, because there may be an app or Internet site you can use to pull up lists of animals. That mean's no more scribbled numbers on pieces of scratch paper or the back of envelopes. The time saving comes if you don't need to walk back to the house to fetch the list. This is another 5 to 10 minute savings.

Cellphones store phone numbers, but only the numbers you already have. A smartphone allows you to access the White Pages, Yellow Pages and web pages to find a number you don't have saved. This could save you 5 minutes every once in a while, but could be worth much more the few times you need an important number right away.

There are many note-taking applications on a smartphone. You could use one of the free or low-cost note-taking smartphone apps, or just email yourself notes that you can categorize and delete later. Could you save a few minutes here or there with a better note organizing software?

Eliminate additional devices
One big benefit of the latest smartphones is a high quality camera and instant GPS system. The iPhone 4 and higher has an 8-megapixel camera. An equivalent camera is worth about $40 for the cheapest version of a point-and-shoot you could get in a store.

Do you need a GPS to get around your farm? Probably not. But you might need it to get somewhere in the future. The cheapest automobile navigation GPS I could find is $90. If you want one at some point in the future, you've already got it on a smartphone.

It could be worth it
As you can see, the smartphone can easily pay for itself depending on how you use it, and how you value your time. We've also compiled a list of apps you can use on the farm (view the list here Next week, you'll be able to utilize our first-ever World Dairy Expo App (you can download it now or read about it here:

At the same time, you could spend hours on Facebook or Twitter and neglect your farm work, costing you valuable time. Like most things in this world, a smartphone buy is what you make of it.