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Take advantage of the ‘smart’ in your phone

Aaron Berger for Progressive Cattleman Published on 24 October 2018

Cattle producers, are you looking for ways to use your time more effectively? The solution may be already in your hand, shirt pocket or belt holster. The rise of smartphone technology in the last 10 years has been revolutionary.

People have the ability to access and utilize information quickly and easily. Two tools smartphones provide access to are: mobile applications (also known as “apps”) and podcasts.

Recordkeeping to market information can be accssed with smartphone technologySmartphone apps are available for a broad range of applications for ranchers. Everything from cow herd recordkeeping to market information can be accessed and utilized with smartphone technology.

Apps for the cattle producer

Here are three apps developed by Nebraska Extension that can be utilized by cattle producers to help them care for cattle and manage their businesses more effectively.

  • NUBeef-BCS – Wondering what the average body condition score is for your cows? This app allows you to visually assess your cow herd and nutrition program using a number system that describes the amount of condition or fat reserve of the cow.

    The app includes the ability to take pictures of cows and compare them to a library of representative cow body condition scores. By knowing where cow body condition scores are and the direction they are headed, producers can make management changes such as weaning of calves and supplementing of protein or energy to keep body condition scores at desired targets.

  • NUBeef-cowQlate – This app includes four calculators for beef producers. The Feed Cost Calculator, Dry Matter Conversions Calculator, Corn Stalks Calculator and Gestation Calculator are all part of this tool.

o The Feed Cost Calculator allows producers to compare feed alternatives to one another to identify which is the best buy based on a price per unit of energy and price per unit of protein. This is useful when comparing, for example, protein supplements that have different crude protein, cost per ton and miles to be shipped.

o The Dry Matter Conversions Calculator allows producers to evaluate and compare feeds on a dry matter basis.

o The Corn Stalks Calculator allows a producer to estimate the grazing days per acre available from a field of cornstalks based on corn yield and cattle size.

o The Gestation Calculator allows for a quick determination of calendar date to start the breeding season based on the desired start of calving.

  • GrassSnap – This free app assists producers in monitoring range and pastureland using photo points and recordkeeping. Photographs, apparent trend scores and grazing indexes are organized by pasture and date. This tool can be used in combination with grazing records to provide documentation of grazing management.

Visit the UNL Beef website to learn more about these apps and other tools from Nebraska Extension available to producers. There are a multitude of different apps available both from universities and private industry that can make recording and accessing information easier. Take a few minutes to review what is out there. You may find a tool that makes life simpler and easier.

Podcasts – listen and learn

The second tool smartphone technology has provided is convenient access to podcasts. Cattle producers committed to lifelong learning often find podcasts as a way to expand their knowledge base while using time effectively.

For a majority of people involved in production agriculture, a significant amount of time is spent behind the wheel of a vehicle or piece of equipment. This “drive time” can be an opportunity to listen to podcasts by using smartphone technology.

Whether you have an iPhone, or your smartphone runs on Android, there is a podcast app that will allow you to subscribe and listen to podcasts. The iPhones come with a podcast player built-in, plus there are others available in the app store. Similarly, a quick search of the Google Play store will return many highly rated Android phone podcast players available for free or minimal cost.

Not sure where to start? Nebraska Extension has developed two videos that walk through how to install a podcast app on a phone using Android or how to use the iPhone podcast player. To view the videos, see BeefWatch Podcast-Android or UNL BeefWatch Podcast.

Once a podcast app is installed on your phone, you can search for content you are interested in or the name of the podcast you are looking for and then subscribe. When a podcast is subscribed to, whenever a new podcast is released, it will automatically show up in your podcast subscriptions.

For example, the BeefWatch podcast is the audio companion to the monthly BeefWatch electronic newsletter. Throughout the month, interviews with newsletter article authors are released that provide additional information and insights into the topic discussed in the newsletter.

There are monthly “Producer Perspectives” as well as bonus podcast interviews that provide information on a wide range of topics. If you subscribe to BeefWatch podcasts, you will receive notifications as new podcasts become available.

Obviously, the BeefWatch podcast is not the only beef-focused podcast available. Here are a few other university or cattle market and news- related podcasts you might consider taking a listen to.

  • Nebraska Extension Almanac Radio

  • BCI Cattle Chat – Kansas State University

  • Cattle Current Market Update with Wes Ishmael – daily snapshot of the cattle market

  • Beef Buzz with Ron Hays – Radio Oklahoma Network

People in production agriculture often find it challenging to invest time for continuing education to grow their knowledge and skills. Being able to use time behind the wheel as an educational opportunity through listening to podcasts is one way to accomplish this.

Smartphones are a tremendous tool many cattle producers are often not fully aware of the capabilities of. The use of apps and podcasts are two ways to more fully employ the “smart” in your phone to use time effectively and benefit your cattle business.  end mark

PHOTO: Everything from recordkeeping to market information can be accessed with smartphone technology. Photo by Paul Marchant. 

Aaron Berger
  • Aaron Berger

  • Extension Educator
  • South Panhandle Extension Unit
  • Email Aaron Berger