An increasing number of smartphone apps are helping livestock farmers improve their business performance – making mundane tasks easier and saving both time and money.
Manufacturers are able to stay on top of their game with apps that reduce pressure on farm workers, collect data more easily and increase the efficiency of their enterprises – ultimately making them more productive.
Here are six apps to consider.
See also: 12 must-have phone apps for cattle ranchers
The Breeder App is a data recording tool that connects to other information gathering devices such as weigh cells and tag readers. It can also download farm office equipment and connect to livestock recording services.
These features are important to save labor and administration time. But, in a further development, the breeder has set up an online buying and selling system backed by a £10m cashflow funding package.
Beef and sheep farms have money tied up in their animals for months between the breeding and finishing periods.
Because there is little or no cash flow between the two points, farmers are often forced to rely on savings, overdraft facilities or loans, using farm fixed assets as security.
This annual financial cycle carries a huge risk for the farm itself.
how it works
Rather than borrowing against the farm, breeder cashflow allows businesses to withdraw cash secured against the value of the farm’s livestock rather than fixed assets.
Lending confidence is established on the robustness of the data submitted by app users through continuous monitoring and recording of each animal. This has been deemed sufficient for financiers to lend as collateral against rising stock.
Breeder Cashflow will provide cash up to 80% of the value of the cattle or sheep – either those the farmer plans to buy or is already on the farm, smoothing out troughs in cash flow.
For details visit: www.breedr.co
Concept Dairy is an app-based milk price monitor that allows farmers to lock in contracts at future prices.
The objective of this tool is to increase transparency in the entire market and reduce price volatility for the farmers.
Processors also achieve this through having a greater degree of certainty in their long-term supply.
how it works
Farm managers upload the herd’s production level and milk quality details to the app, which then displays milk futures prices in real time on a calendar up to 24 months in advance.
The farmer looks at the basic futures prices offered by the processor, selects the month and submits the number of liters to sell, along with fat and protein levels.
Once the processor has reviewed and accepted the quantities and components offered, the details are displayed in green and the contract is closed.
Prices are live and updated daily. The business benefits from knowing that the contract value is guaranteed and has a high degree of certainty.
Spot prices are relatively high at the moment and although the estimated price for June 2024 is 51.698p/l, lower than today’s high, it is still well above the five-year average.
By June 2024, the spot price may have returned to a more specific number and the fixed price will be a bonus.
The app has additional features that provide further security for the agribusiness. For a small fee – for example, the current market charge is 2.69p/litre – the deal can be protected and will track an upward move.
This means that if the spot price rises above the projected level, as has happened in the last 18 months, the trade will not be missed.
More facilities are being developed which will allow farmers to buy further inputs such as fuel, fodder and fertilizers at fixed prices.
With both input and output prices locked in to provide a known margin, agribusiness will face very little volatility.
For details visit: Conceptdairy.com
Like Breeder, Herdwatch is one of many recording apps, but it is one of the best-known examples in all types of livestock with a wide range of features.
The app supports business flexibility by cutting labor and administration time while helping to avoid cross-compliance penalties and drug abuse. Other compliance issues such as inspections are also supported.
The app is compatible with the British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS), Northern Ireland’s Animal and Public Health Information System (AFIS) and Red Tractor.
how it works
The recorded data can be directly uploaded to BCMS and office and the inspection report is generated in a compatible format.
Offline recording allows data to be stored on the phone so that features can be used without available Wi-Fi. For example, medicines can be logged on purchases, to prevent any mistakes or omissions that can be written and entered in the details later.
The app uses a smart barcode reader to identify the drug and a QR code scanner to automatically input the batch number and expiration date.
It will alert the user to any expiration dates as they draw near, and will keep track of used quantities and re-order dates.
The animals can be registered offline at the time of tagging, and then uploaded directly to the BCMS and the office when they are in Wi-Fi range.
The weight recording is logged against the tag and the app will calculate the daily liveweight gain based on the subsequent weight.
For details see: herdwatch.co.uk
Labor-saving devices can cut costs, improve work order, and allow more time to focus on managing herd performance.
Most farms use foot-baths as a prevention measure for lameness that can affect performance and drive up costs through treatment and management time.
Even a small unit can hold a 260-liter bath that needs to be filled and emptied twice a day. It can take up to an hour to clean, clean and refill the bath for a herd of 100 cows each day.
But one appliance manufacturer, Hoofcount, offers labor-saving, app-linked automatic foot-baths.
how it works
Once installed and programmed, the foot-bath can be left in place to perform a routine task. It monitors stock throughput through a counter and automatically cleans, sanitizes and refreshes the bath according to the number of animals using it.
Alternatively, operations can be set to proceed at certain times of the day, or manually at any point via the start switch on the app.
The shower leaves fast before the jet-washing program begins. The chemicals are delivered in pre-determined concentrations without any human intervention. This cuts down on employees’ exposure to chemicals and saves more time putting on and taking off protective equipment each day.
The app connects to any number of baths, displays chemical concentrations and alerts if the dispenser is running low.
The app will also display passing numbers, and confirm that operations are underway, removing the need for physical checks.
For details see: hoofcount.com
Feed Alert is an app-linked monitoring system that can streamline feed re-orders and cut waste.
Calendaring orders can cause excess stock to accumulate in bins, increasing the potential for feed degradation and nutrient loss. Stale feed will see low intake, resulting in performance degradation and feed wastage.
Alternatively, livestock farms run the risk of running out of feed if they do not have an accurate way of estimating stocks.
Buying stock at critical low points means that the herd manager is more likely to be forced to accept a higher price.
how it works
FeedAlert is based on accurate weight monitoring of the silo system. Equipment from strain gauges to load cells can be supplied upon purchase of a new silo, or retrofitted into any type of bin.
An accuracy of up to 99.8% is possible depending on the number of load cells attached to the silo legs.
Measuring with this level of accuracy overcomes any potential discrepancy caused by bridging. The data can be viewed in silos or remotely using the FeedAlert app.
The app will alert the user to falling feed levels to avoid outages, provide a seven-day forecast to consolidate delivery periods, and display a 30-day history and daily usage summary.
It can also be shared across the workforce to further reduce the risk of outages.
For details, see: Feedalert.co.uk
A whole-farm mapping, monitoring and recording app, FieldMargin is not limited to livestock production. Users can record inputs such as seeds, sprays and fertilisers, plan jobs and record when they are completed.
As well as logging input and fieldwork, the app can provide a detailed map with additional features, such as fences, gateways, buildings, drains and water pipes to help workers navigate and avoid hazards.
The locations and movements of animals can also be logged to make grazing days easier. This can make it easier to monitor different herds around the farm, track animal numbers, calculate grazing days, and pasture rest days.
how it works
FieldMargin says swarm movements can be recorded with just a few taps, making it easy to keep up-to-date records. Livestock can be easily relocated by selecting their new location on the map, in which each herd has its own history and grazing record.
The app automatically calculates field rest days to help estimate grazing availability. Users can view a history of when and how long farms were previously grazing, and can easily check current pastures.
The herd history feature shows when herds were moved to a field and when they were removed to move elsewhere. On the date of removal it will show how many days the animals were grazing in that field.
For details see: fieldmargin.com
Case Study: Transition Farmer Eddie Andrew
Transition farmer Eddie Andrew’s family-run farm produces milk and ice cream from his 90-cow dairy herd at the edge of the Peak District National Park.
The business, Our Cow Molly, has an ice cream parlor, a shop and milk delivery service for approximately 1,200 local customers around Sheffield, which is only four miles away.
As with so many enterprises, app-based technology plays an important role in monitoring tools.
Sensors on the freezer are connected to staff smartphones, which provide real-time information about changes in temperature.
The agricultural enterprise also uses fieldmargins (see above) to save time and achieve more accurate fertilizer use.
“With fertilizer prices so high, we wanted to be strict on usage and make sure it matched the needs of the crop,” explains Mr. Andrew.
Shared with the farm contractor, the app allows all fieldwork to be logged and recorded.
Details are shared with other staff members so that all information on input is available at all times – saving time on administration and eliminating confusion.
“This means there is no time wasted or potential errors in explaining which areas need which fertilizers,” says Mr. Andrew.
“Saved information serves as a record for later, so we know exactly what has been done and when.”