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Dairyman easing into online nutrient tracking

Progressive Dairyman Editor Walt Cooley Published on 17 October 2014

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After six months of using new web-based nutrient management tracking software, California dairyman Brian Medeiros is still trying to make the software his go-to record-keeping source, not just a digital, always-available electronic copy of his paper records.

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Medeiros began using CAFOweb from New Mexico-based Glorieta Geoscience early this year as part of Progressive Dairyman’s peer technology user group.

He has a free license to use the software for one year, about a $2,000 value. In exchange for free use, Medeiros has agreed to ongoing interviews about his experience using the software.

Medeiros admits he hasn’t used the program as much as he hoped he would at the outset of the trial. He’s still using his paper-based nutrient management record-keeping method and then copying the information into the software when he has time.

As an iPad-toting dairyman, Medeiros says he’d use the program more if the software did two things. First, he’d enter more information if it allowed him to enter it in the way most intuitive to him and, second, he’d like the software to make it easier to report compliance with his state’s nutrient management requirements.

Although the software currently displays previously entered data by field, it doesn’t permit new data entries from that same field-level view. Medeiros would like to have the option to enter his irrigation and nutrient management information from the same screen that shows a field’s previous history.

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Presently, to enter new information, the user selects the type of information to be entered from one of several defined menu sections, such as meter readings, soil sampling, planting and harvesting, etc.

“We are confident that once he starts using the program and entering data, he will feel more comfortable with the current layout of CAFOweb and that the program offers many of the things he wants,” says CAFOweb Executive Director Tara Vander Dussen.

Unlike most users, Medeiros is entering in all of his data himself. Most of the program’s paid users use their consultants or crop advisers to enter and analyze their nutrient management data.

Vander Dussen says changes to the website’s dashboard display will soon include quick field-level summaries. This might help farmers who are using the program to manage many fields. In Medeiros’ case, he has entered data for 30 fields.

In addition to an above-average number of fields entered into the program, Vander Dussen says Medeiros is also more tech-savvy than most users. Where most dairymen would be comfortable recording meter readings or irrigation times in a notebook out in the field and then returning to the computer and entering them into the software, Medeiros would prefer to skip the paper record step and enter the information right into the software himself.

He’s also discovered that getting information out of the system and over to his nutrient management consultant in a way mandated by state regulations is still not as seamless as he would like it to be.

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At the outset, Medeiros hoped his irrigators would be willing to do the same as he does – carry an iPad and enter data through the software program. He realizes now that they will still likely prefer to use pencil and paper and hand it over to him for recording.

Another digital-first recording opportunity Medeiros has seen possible with the software is weekly inspection records. He’s suggested additions to the current inspection section that would make his compliance with California recording complete. The program currently includes inspection lists for pipelines, ditches, drains, sump pumps, lagoons, separators and flow meters.

“Right now, the program doesn’t have all the check boxes for compliance that we need to have for our facility,” Medeiros says.

Vander Dussen observes that it typically takes a dairy producer one cropping cycle of using the program to get comfortable with it. She’s interested to see how Medeiros views the program after crop harvests this fall.

“We find it takes a lot of our producers’ time to make the transition from paper record-keeping to CAFOweb. Once they make the change, they can’t imagine going back to paper record-keeping,” she 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
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