The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

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Introducing the Dairy Mobile App

Introducing the Dairy Mobile App

In the News

April 28, 2013

Moo-ve over YieldCheck and iCropTrak, now dairy farmers are jumping into the digital farming technology race too with an app created specifically for the dairy industry. The DairyCents Mobile App, developed by Penn State University (PSU) Extension, is a budget-friendly way for dairy farmers to easily compute costs and remain environmentally friendly.

Although agriculture apps have been growing in popularity recently, most previously existing apps have focused on crop related issues, like predicting corn yields or managing field sprays. Now, dairy farmers can focus on issues that matter most to them, like calculating income over feed cost (IOFC) with just a couple of clicks on an Android or iPhone.

Virginia Ishler, Nutrient Management Specialist and PSU Dairy Complex Manager, says that the inspiration to form this app came from the fact that the information the app provides was not previously available as a one-stop source. As the technology kept advancing, they saw the mobile app as a way to reach more people, and not just in Pennsylvania. There are currently not a lot of apps available to dairy producers that give them real time information and/or information that applies to their operation specifically. 

“The app is appropriate for not only dairy producers but their consultants. It also gives them an awareness about how the current markets affect feed costs and their margins. The current DairyCents app is based on research where we took a very simplified diet of alfalfa hay, corn, and soybean meal, using market prices, to calculate the feed cost per cow. We use all the milk prices reported for the various states, so we can determine milk income. The current app was developed as an awareness tool on what these numbers should look like,” says Ishler.

Penn State (PSU) has been tracking IOFC – the milk income per cow per day, minus feed cost per cow per day – for their University herd since 2004. IOFC is essentially the amount of monies left over to pay the rest of the business' expenses. A producer can select the production level that most closely matches their own herd's production to compare how their feed costs and IOFC compares to the app. If they do not know their numbers, then this is an opportunity to make them more aware of what that number should look like.

Ishler says that they are currently working on phase II of the app, which should be out this summer. This phase will allow the producer and/or consultant to enter in a herd's own numbers, so they can calculate their specific feed costs, enter in their own milk price, and their own production. The IOFC will be generated specifically for their herd and they can graph their numbers over time to see how they are doing. There will be a feed management component as well where the producer can monitor dry matter intake, dry matter intake efficiency, nitrogen efficiency, and phosphorus intake and excretion. 

“The objective here is tying together the feed management side of the environmental concerns while monitoring an economic barometer, like IOFC. Producers and consultants need to be looking at both!” says Ishler.

Ishler thinks the sky is the limit when it comes to these apps and she says there are many opportunities in the other food sectors to take advantage of emerging technologies. She points out that there is a new generation taking over today’s farms that have grown up with Facebook, Twitter, mobile apps and so on, and now, even the older generation is embracing this. In the past, poor internet service in more rural areas was a hindrance. Now, with the smart phone, farmers have faster and more dependable access to the internet. As a result, they are embracing the mobile app concept very quickly.

“They carry their phone with them all the time, so they find they can get info right at their finger tips versus having to wait until they get to their office or home to search the web. Producers have so much going on. The new technologies help them be more informed,” adds Ishler.