Farmers face 'hectic' calving with new app

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

A new piece of technology has been developed to help farmers record calving information in the paddock - rain, hail or shine - without carrying around a pad and pencil.

Hamilton-based co-op Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) is currently trialling a smartphone application which it says will be ready for dairy farmers by June.

The MINDA Calving app will allow farmers to add calving information to their herd records with any Android or Apple iOS smartphone.

Farmers enter the data into their smartphones while in the paddock and this later feeds back into herd recording software in the office.

Rob Ford, LIC's general manager of farm systems, said spring calving was a notoriously difficult time for farmers, who often had to record data on a waterproof pad at all times of day and in all types of weather.

"The whole event of calving on farms is quite a hectic time of year. There are calves dropping on the ground and knowing each calf's parentage is really important."

Ford said farmers often forgot to transfer information from their pads to their record systems, or forgot entirely.

Farmers had increasingly told LIC they no longer wanted their records confined to their office anymore, he said.

"They want to be able to have it with them down the farm and in their pocket, to review and update in realtime."

"It's got to be one of the most requested products we've ever had."

The MINDA Calving app can be installed on multiple devices, enabling staff to share and enter data from their own phones. The manager can then review and approve that data in the office before herd records are updated.

Rotorua sharemilker Colin Grainger-Allen, who is trialling the calving app, said being able to do everything on a phone would save him time.

"It's really simple and it also provides a set way for everyone to record the information.

"At the end of the day, the real skill is still matching the right cow to the right calf, and that's not easy, but this will reduce the need for double entry of data, or having to try and decipher someone else's handwriting."

Although the app will be free to download from Google Play or the Apple iTunes store, farmers will need LIC's herd recording software for the app data to feed back into.

Called MINDApro, the software costs 18 cents per animal per month, and also has a monthly base fee of $47 per herd.

Ford said the software was essentially a "births, deaths and marriages" record of every animal on the farm.

He said most farmers had good phone reception and at least a low level of broadband coverage these days.

The government's rural broadband initiative would make it possible in the future for farmers to use more technology on the job.

"They say there is an app for everything these days, and we're working to ensure that's the same for our dairy farmers."

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