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Choosing the right beef industry app

Keep records, monitor pastures, even evaluate poop — these are all new smartphone options

There are a bewildering number of apps available today for everything from games to personal fitness, and the livestock industry is not being left behind. But how does a producer decide which app will be the most useful to his or her operation?

Kathy Larson, beef economist with the Western Beef Development Centre (WBDC) near Lanigan, Sask., recently gave a webinar presentation that gave an overview of some of the apps available for livestock producers.

Larson says in her opinion apps can be a great tool to help cow-calf producers with record-keeping, but they don’t replace a good record-keeping program. When Larson researched apps for cattle producers she found a variety of options, some of which were free, and others ranging from $17 to $170 to purchase. Which means as much as producers might like to “test drive” a few apps, it can be costly.

For anyone new to the technology, an app (short for application) is software for a smartphone or tablet. Many basic apps for weather forecasts, social media sites or games often come installed with the mobile device. Other apps need to be downloaded from app stores such as the Apple Store, Google Play or Blackberry App World. Many apps are free but some must be purchased, usually for a modest fee

So WBDC is helping producers by posting some online tutorials on different apps, showing how to navigate them and listing some of the pros and cons.

For the webinar Larson compared a number of free and paid apps that might be useful to cattle producers. Below is a summary of Larson’s review of each.

iCalve

Captures calving records, deaths, cull lists, treatments and important herd data such as bulls turned in, bull pulled out, cow, bull and bred heifer inventories, pregnancy check dates, vaccinations, cows on grass and cows on feed. It also has calf records, including birth date, sex, and dam information.

On the down side there is no ability to enter RFID tag or sire information, and in its current version the way to export data is to generate it in a pdf format, but an update with additional export features is in the works. The app is available only for Apple devices, and costs US$13. View the WBDC tutorial on YouTube.

Calving Book

Captures calving records and a plus is that a producer can log in on multiple devices and have multiple calving books, which is useful if they have both commercial and purebred herds. The user can customize the data fields required, and the data entered can be exported via email in a spreadsheet (.csv) format. It also does not have an RFID tag field.

Available for Apple or Android devices, the app costs $24. View the WBDC tutorial on YouTube.

CattleMGRPro

A record-keeping app for herd and pasture records, which also syncs to Apple iCloud, but is cumbersome to use because it handles 16 different species and it’s hard to navigate through them. It’s also only available for Apple devices for $22.

Grass Snap

A free app for Apple and Android developed by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, It allows producers to keep a photo log of their pastures. Users can take digital photos of a landscape and up to five separate plots and the app records the GPS co-ordinates, date and the direction the user is facing in the field. By creating maps and using an overlay function the app shows producers how their pastures change over time.

Cow Poop Analyzer

This free app for Apple and Android developed by Texas A&M University may sound gross but it compares pictures the user takes of cow manure in the pasture to stock photos to get an indication of the crude protein content and digestibility of the animal’s feed source.

Canfax CFX Pro

CanFax CFX Pro is another free app for Apple and Blackberry, which gives access to market information, price projections, futures, and WLPIP premiums, and also includes a break-even calculator, with the ability to store the calculations to retrieve later.

Farm At Hand

Farm at Hand is an integrated, cloud-based farm management program, which is accessible through all mobile platforms and keeps track of grain marketing details, agronomic information by field, machinery, grain storage, and pricing. It is free of charge for farmers.

Larson adds that record-keeping programs such as Cattlemax and Biotrack also have mobile interfaces so data can be recorded using a smartphone or tablet.

About the author

Contributor

Angela Lovell

Angela Lovell is a freelance writer based in Manitou, Manitoba. Visit her website at http://alovell.ca or follow her on Twitter @angelalovell10.

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