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Dairyman to test-drive nutrient-tracking software

Progressive Dairyman Editor Walt Cooley Published on 11 June 2014

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California dairyman Brian Medeiros, who will test-drive new web-based nutrient management tracking software as part of Progressive Dairyman’s ongoing peer technology user group, says he hopes the software makes mandated nutrient management record-keeping easier.

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Medeiros began using CAFOweb from New Mexico-based Glorieta Geoscience early this year. For his participation in Progressive Dairyman’s user group, he will receive a free license to use the software for one year, about a $2,000 value. Medeiros has agreed to ongoing interviews about his experience using the software.

Editor’s note: This is the final introduction to a producer test-driver and a new technology for 2014. Future series installments later this year will revisit previously introduced dairies and their experiences using their assigned technologies.

Brian Medeiros

Medeiros and Son Dairy
Hanford, California

“What intrigues me the most about this opportunity is getting a tool that can, in real-time, in the field, record what’s going on with my nutrient management,” the 25-year-old Medeiros says.

Medeiros and his dad, Rui, milk 2,500 cows and farm 1,460 acres in California’s Central Valley. As dairy farmers in a state with perhaps the most stringent environmental regulations in the country, the father-son duo spend plenty of time keeping paperwork up-to-date.

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“I have six three-ring binders on my desk with regulations, plans and compliance paperwork in them,” Medeiros says. He keeps the paperwork current so that if a regional environmental quality inspector stops in and asks to see his records, he will be compliant.

“In California, you are obligated to record every pound of nitrogen you put on a field, through manure, wastewater or commercial fertilizer,” Medeiros explains. “Hopefully, this is a much easier way to record our interactions with the fields we manage and the nutrients we apply from our dairy.”

For the past four years, Medeiros has been using nutrient application log books in the field and then transferring that information into an Excel spreadsheet back at his office. The spreadsheet calculates his total nutrient application rates.

After seeing a demo of CAFOweb, Medeiros admitted it was doing something similar to what he envisioned doing with his own spreadsheets. However, the new software he will be test-driving includes a proprietary, patented formula to calculate nutrient uptake from the crop on the field in real-time.

Arriving at a similar number might require two to three weeks using his paper-based method and would need the assistance of Medeiros’ nutrient management consultant.

“This program should be able to calculate on an ongoing basis any nutrient loading to give you a real-time number,” Medeiros says.

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Medeiros plans to keep his environmental engineer on retainer to review the software’s data and sign off on his regulatory compliance. However, he anticipates the bill for these consulting services should be smaller as the records will be more organized and easily accessible.

“This will definitely help manage my concern of an inspector popping in and asking to know right then exactly what’s going on,” Medeiros says.

Besides the immediate results, Medeiros is also intrigued by the ease of accessing the information.

“I could have my iPad propped up in my truck, as I usually do, and open up the program in a browser, go to whatever field we are working on and file away information about nutrient applications,” he says.

To begin using the software, a dairy producer must create a virtual copy of his or her farm’s nutrient management assets. The program walks a dairyman through entering the number of meters, lagoons, barns, production wells, monitoring wells, fields and crops the dairy employs.

Tara Vander Dussen, executive director for CAFOweb, says a dairy can get as detailed as it wants to when entering information about each asset. For example, when entering information about a production well, a dairy could include the total depth of the well and its depth to water.

“You can get as complicated as you want with the data entry,” Vander Dussen says. “You could even enter the GPS location of the well. Most people don’t get that detailed.”

Depending on the number of each asset to be entered and the amount of specifics about each one, initial set up could take two to three hours. That was Medeiros’ experience. He started from scratch and has so far entered in the basic information for his barns, lagoon, wells and 30 fields with their respective crops this growing season.

Vander Dussen says the program could import historical data from an Excel spreadsheet similar to the one Medeiros was maintaining. Medeiros preferred to start with a clean slate, although he does plan to manually enter some of his historical data so he can get the full experience of using all aspects of the program.

Medeiros plans to teach his irrigators how to use the software and give them an iPad to log in and indicate the exact times manure flush water was turned into and out of a field during irrigation turns.

“Instead of them calling me and telling me, ‘I changed this water at this time,’ and me recording that information, they could go into the program and record it themselves.”

During the trial, Medeiros hopes to expose the software’s sponsoring company to some of the unique challenges California dairy producers face. He sees a lot of promise in the program’s web-based approach to compliance.

“For example, when it rains, I have to check how much it rained and record it. Then I have to check if I had runoff and record it. It would be nice if I could do all of that compliance recording in CAFOweb,” Medeiros says.

Medeiros and other California dairymen have collaborated to create some compliance-reporting documents and share them via Google docs.

“If this makes my life easier and the data-collection part of our business easier, then $2,000 is not a big deal to spend each year to continue using it in the future,” Medeiros says. PD

Tara Vander Dussen and CAFOweb can be reached by email or by calling (888) 800-3316.

If you’re interested in applying to be part of a future Progressive Dairyman peer technology group, email Editor Walt Cooley .

  • Walt Cooley

  • Editor-in-chief
  • Progressive Dairyman
  • Email Walt Cooley

On a scale of 1 to 5, Progressive Dairyman found this dairy is interested in new technology at the following level:

Brian Medeiros 3.3

“The creators of this software have said it enables dairymen to go on the offensive when it comes to manure management. Brian is very active when it comes to environmental stewardship. He’s ahead of the curve in this regard. I’m most curious to discover how useful he finds the real-time estimates of field nutrient use and how well his irrigators up take the use of the program.” —Editor Walt Cooley

Top new technology categories of interest:

1. Forage production/analysis

2. Cow comfort and cooling

3. Milking & testing equipment

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