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Run your dairy with your cellphone

Trent Dado for Progressive Dairy Published on 25 August 2021

The right apps used the right ways can enhance the communication of your team and increase the engagement and efficiency of different tasks on the dairy.

What would you do without your cellphone? Whenever my phone’s battery dies, I feel lost and disconnected. It is hard to believe how attached we have become to our mobile gadgets in the 14 years since they were invented. Now just about everything we do in our day-to-day lives is impacted or assisted by our cellphones. For those of us in the dairy industry, this includes how we operate and manage our dairies. I have seen some inventive and unique ways owners, managers and employees are using phone applications to perform at a high level. Some apps help teams communicate and work effectively, and other apps are designed to help with specific tasks on dairies.

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First, we will start with apps that help communicate. Of course, calling and texting are the go-to for one-on-one communication. However, when we want to discuss the empty feedbunks with the entire feeder team, group text messages can become mangled when both iPhones and Android phones are involved. I have started to see more and more teams use WhatsApp, Microsoft Teams or Slack to streamline communication with specific groups of people on their dairy.

Using the example of the empty feedbunk, perhaps an overnight milker sees the post-fresh cows are out of feed at midnight and sends a picture to the manager. The manager can forward the picture to the feeders to let them know to increase the amount of feed to the post-fresh pen and investigate why they were so short. Perhaps there were more fresh cows than expected. Perhaps there was a rain event and forage dry matters were not adjusted. Group messaging apps can increase the communication among the team, especially between teams across the dairy and on different shifts.

To further enhance communication, there are another slug of apps to share and access information and documents from various people on a team. Platforms such as Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive and Microsoft Teams allow you to share folders, files and documents with anybody. More importantly to this article, however, is that with the mobile apps of these platforms, you can access these documents from anywhere on the dairy.

For example, perhaps we have a new employee who can’t quite remember the protocol for pulling a calf. Do I assist after two hours or four hours? Do I use the chains or am I supposed to call the vet? To answer these questions, it is a few short touches to find the protocol on the shared Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) folder in Dropbox. Of course, posted protocols and binders of SOPs work well, but allowing for mobile access may provide the convenience necessary for them to actually look.

Mobile calendars and to-do lists are the third group of apps to enhance the communication and effective planning of teams. Google Calendar and Outlook Calendar are the most common calendar apps. What is convenient about these apps is the ability to have different calendars for different teams on the dairy. For example, perhaps the herd health team has a shared calendar where they create events for dry-off days, cow move days, breeding days, etc. This can aid in scheduling and task allocation among persons on a team.

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Another less-used feature I recommend is connecting a to-do list with your mobile calendar. Common task and project management apps include Asana, Todoist and Google Tasks, which can all be synched with your calendar. These apps can help ensure more obscure or infrequently completed tasks are not forgotten. Items like washing fans in the spring, when to order feed or check prices, or when to open new piles of forage are tasks that sometimes need reminders.

This next class of apps are designed to help with specific tasks on your dairy. First are the phone applications that coincide with your herd management software. Most commonly, these would be the apps for DairyComp and Bovisync. The apps have made a lot of progress in the last few years, enabling the phone to be used to look up cows, see lists and record events. If your dairy is not currently using such tools, I highly recommend reaching out to your software supplier to look into using these features. They are a huge time-saver and reduce the error from transferring data from clipboards to computers.

Moving to the feed center, there are a few different mobile applications that can assist with feeding and feed management. Many dairies use a feeding software, and the software tracks, records and displays the amount of feed to load and deliver. However, much of this data lives on the computer and is hard for managers and owners to access remotely. Several software companies such as EZ Feed and One Feed have mobile apps available as part of their software.

For those who do not have mobile apps, many do have the ability to automatically save reports. In this case, I save these reports to a shared folder like the ones listed above so I can at least see the feeding software reports from my phone.

As a nutritionist, I use a few other apps I also recommend feed center managers have on their phones. Forage testing labs have tools available to submit samples and view results on your phone. I also suggest the Chicago Mercantile Exchange app to help keep tabs on commodity markets.

Although it may seem counterintuitive to promote phone use and productivity at the same time, the right apps used the right ways can enhance the communication of your team and increase the engagement and efficiency of different tasks on the dairy. end mark

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PHOTO: Getty Images.

Dado Dairy Consulting LLC is an independent dairy nutrition and management consulting company in the southern and western Wisconsin regions. Dado has years of on-farm and feed industry experience, affording him the ability to provide a holistic approach to farm-specific goals.

Trent Dado
  • Trent Dado

  • Owner
  • Dado Dairy Consulting LLC
  • Email Trent Dado

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