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Instantaneous feeding decisions make dairies more productive

Joe Dysart Published on 19 July 2013

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This article was #14 of the Top 25 most well-read articles on www.progressivedairy.com in 2013. It was published in the July 21, 2013 print issue. Click here for the full list of the Top 25.

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This article explored a sampling of mobile-friendly feed rationing software. Several nutritionists and company representatives shared how the software has changed how they do business.

We asked those interviewed,
Q. If you could snap your fingers and make it happen, what is a feature you would add to feed rationing software?

“Accuracy is key to maintaining a healthy margin on any dairy operation. Many times when ordering feed we run into too many uncertainties. Did I get a fair price, or is another vendor offering a lower price? When will it be delivered? Where exactly is my feed? Was it delivered? Where are the weigh slips and purchase orders? Did we receive the amount of feed we are being charged for? All are questions and concerns that can and will affect your bottom line.

“If one could add another element to management, it would be a system that would allow you to review ingredient and price options, order, track deliveries, verify deliveries and maintain accurate records of inventory and prices paid. All from your phone. Less paperwork, less errors and the assurance that you have the records you need to make sound management decisions on your dairy operation.”
—Mark Doornink, senior support specialist, Valley Agricultural Software

“A feature I would really like to see in my ration software is an easier, more comprehensive approach to pricing of ingredients. Currently, pricing scenarios within the programs are cumbersome and difficult to manage. Given that the finances of dairies are becoming increasingly important, I would love to be able to efficiently see how spot/clock/OND/Oct-March/etc. commodity prices affect diet costs. Plus, I’d like to see this across all diets within a dairy and not have to flip through multiple menus to do it. As well, I’d like to be able to store multiple prices for the same ingredient that I could use across all dairies within my program.”
—Joe Terrible, owner and nutritionist, Alpha Dairy Consulting

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ARTICLE :
Tablet and smartphone mobility is coming to dairy ration software, enabling nutritionists to quickly make on-the-fly feed adjustments that are helping dairies run more efficiently – and more profitably.

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Specifically, nutritionists say their mobile devices give them the ability to make split-second changes to rations as they’re walking a dairy – or even crawling around on their hands and knees.

Those changes simply were not possible in the past using a desktop or a limited-mobility laptop.

Dennis Stokes, owner-nutritionist at Snake River Enterprises, based in Middleton, Idaho, for example, says he has regularly been able to make on-the-fly changes to rations with his iPad, ever since his feed rationing software became mobile-friendly.

“For instance, last week I was analyzing manure in the high-cow pens on one of my dairies and came to the conclusion that the cows looked to be ‘on the edge’ from a fiber standpoint, based on a new fine-stemmed hay introduced days before,” Stokes says.

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“I was able to make a couple of needed adjustments on the fly, get on EZFeed remotely, and the feeder had the changes before he mixed the next load,” he adds.

“It was impossible to do that in the old days.”

Stokes says the mobile-friendly software he uses, AMTS.Cloud (the mobile version of AMTS.Cattle.Pro), also allows him to make instantaneous decisions on emergency changes needed to dairy rations, even if he is nowhere near the dairy needing the urgent help.

“A good example is when an ingredient runs out without a replacement strategy,” Stokes says. “Then I get an emergency phone call that the feeder needs a change right now. This mobile system allows me to make a precise change immediately, wherever I am, so the dairy can continue on the same path it was on before the emergency.”

Without his iPad access, Stokes says that same dairy could have been forced to wait much longer for his advice.

Even worse, the dairy may have had to settle for a less-precise decision from Stokes by phone, which would not have enabled Stokes to get access to up-to-the minute data before making his recommendations.

Indeed, prior to mobile access, it’s tough to imagine a nutritionist communicating instant changes to diet in such a traditionally non-computing- friendly environment.

But with iPad access, Stokes says he is able to do just that.

“I can crawl out of the pen after doing urine pHs and adjust the diet accordingly with my iPad, log on to the feeding program in the dairy office and put in feed changes before the afternoon feeding,” he says.

Joe Terrible, owner-nutritionist at Alpha Dairy Consulting, based in Visalia, California, says he has seen similar results using AMTS.Cloud on his iPad.

“In our practice, we were already using laptops on-farm instead of waiting to return to our office to do diet changes,” Terrible says. “Where the iPad excels with regard to AMTS is its speed and ease of use. I can quickly dive in and out of diets on the mobile app. Plus, they are updated instantly to the cloud via Dropbox.”

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Mobile access is especially handy, he adds, when he gets alerts on silage. “When silage totals come in, we can quickly calculate necessary feedout and adjust the diets accordingly,” Terrible says.

“This type of adjustment is increasingly necessary in today’s dairy industry to maximize homegrown feed.”

Mark Doornink, senior support specialist at Valley Agricultural Software, says on-the-fly, mobile access also eliminates all the hassles associated with handwritten nutritionists’ notes, which often look like hieroglyphics to farm staff.

“No one in the office needs to read the often cryptic handwriting of someone else and input the numbers correctly,” Doornink says.

One of Valley’s Arizona clients, for example, says handwritten notes have been replaced by a tablet they keep in a manager’s truck, which allows the dairy to make feed changes as they are driving the pens and looking at the bunks.

Meanwhile, Feed Management Solutions has rolled out a similar mobile solution, Brill App for Windows 8, which offers its users a number of on-the-fly capabilities, including the ability to receive and respond to notifications and view and compare formulas by plant locations and view prices.

“Feed producers want the ability to access critical information anywhere, anytime – and on multiple devices – because it helps them be more productive,” says Duey Yliniemi, vice president of development and product strategy at Feed Management Solutions. “This is how people work today, and we are very tuned-in to these needs.”

For nutritionists considering a move to mobile-friendly feed software, here’s a representative sampling of what’s available:

• AMTS.Cloud, from Agricultural Modeling and Training Systems , based in Lansing, New York: Offers nutritionists mobile access to all data resident in its desktop software, AMTS.Cattle.Pro. Promises access via virtually any mobile device, including Apple and Android devices. Promises secure access and storage of all cloud data.

• Brill App for Windows 8, from Feed Management Systems , based in Hopkins, Minnesota: Delivers a “subset” of the functionality offered by the full version of Brill Formulation software. Nutritionists can exchange notifications, access data at all plants where they consult and view prices using the mobile version.

• FeedWatch TouchScreen, from Valley Agricultural Software , based in Tulare, California: Offers a proprietary hardware-software solution that is mounted in mixer trucks, wagons, stationary mixers and delivery trucks. The solution eliminates feed sheets, monitors intakes, analyzes consumption, reduces feed waste and more.

• FS Touch, from Supervisor Systems , based in Dresser, Wisconsin: Offers a propriety hardware-software, in-tractor mounted, mobile solution. The device offers users the ability to adjust dry matter, view a previous day’s feeding and record inventory counts.

A Clean-up Optimizer automatically adjusts remaining ration weight based on clean-up pounds available. And Bale Balancer does the same for rations that add a full big bale to the mix. PD

Dysart is an Internet and cloud-computing expert and business consultant based in New York City.

PHOTOS
TOP RIGHT: Dennis Stokes, Snake River Enterprises, says his mobile-friendly feed management software allows him to make instantaneous adjustments to feed rations. Photo courtesy of Dennis Stokes.

MIDDLE RIGHT: Mobile access eliminates the burden of cryptically scribbled notes from the field, says Mark Doornink, Valley Agricultural Software. Photo courtesy of Mark Doornink.

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