Move over Mr. City Slicker Businessman, Mr. American Farmer has an app or two up his sleeve, as well.
Technology. We’ve all witnessed how powerful this tool has been in revolutionizing the way we eat, work, exercise and communicate, and farmers realize the power technology has to make agriculture a much more efficient and profitable industry. The University of Wisconsin’s School of Veterinary Medicine is right in line with this thinking. Its Food Animal Production Medicine Section of the Department of Medical Sciences has been developing apps for a few years now, many available for practical on-farm application today.
While some well-known dairy industry publications have announced these apps are available, The Cow Columns wanted to take a closer look to understand the background behind this app creation and discuss what cool tools may be available for producers in the future.
Join JMB North America as we learn from Tom Bennett, the programmer and developer for these nifty apps. Tom has learned that if you build it…they will be appy.
Tom Bennett: I am the programmer/developer. I work with a group of faculty veterinarian in the Food Animal Production Medicine Section of the Department of Medical Sciences here at the School of Veterinary Medicine. Most of our clinical instruction involves dairy herd management troubleshooting with respect to herd health and welfare. Our apps are designed as tools to help collect information pertinent to this goal. The apps may be used by producers, consultants or our students.
JMB: What was the first app introduced, and when was it developed?
T.B.: The first app introduced was the Locomotion Scorer app. It was released on the iTunes store August 21, 2014. Development of this app began in 2013, while simultaneously working on other apps.
JMB: Why did your department feel a need to get involved in inventing apps?
T.B.: Dr. Nigel Cook felt the emerging iPad technology really lent itself to on-farm data collection and could replace paper records, eliminating the time consuming task of data transcription. There were no apps available for our purposes, so we decided to build our own.
JMB: Did someone, another app or specific need inspire the department to get into app creation?
T.B.: App creation was really driven by our desire to use iPads in the classroom and create tools our clients could use for easy data collection and monitoring.
JMB: How many apps does the department currently have available for producers?
JMB: Is there one app that’s proved to be more popular with producers?
T.B.: We have had the most downloads of the free Preg Calculator app. It uses information about the herd to calculate how many pregnancies the herd should be obtaining to maintain itself. The Locomotion Scorer, Freestall Analyzer and Calf Health Scorer are the three most popular purchased apps.
JMB: What feedback have you received from producers regarding the apps?
T.B.: All feedback has been tremendously positive! We have a lot of people asking for Android versions. I will be taking a class this week to assist me in developing our apps for that OS.
JMB: Have you tweaked any existing apps due to producer comments?
T.B.: Yes, based on customer comments I am creating a version update to the Calf Health Scorer. Our customers want the ability to use electronic ID readers and have a Spanish version. I hope to have this update available by July 1.
JMB: What app does your department feel is the most beneficial for producers?
T.B.: The Calf Health Scorer, Freestall Analyzer, Locomotion Scorer and Body Condition Scorer are all probably equally beneficial to the producer. Each are purposefully built to provide a useful tool to assess critical areas of the dairy system.
JMB: What is the overall goal of providing these services for producers?
T.B.: To provide useful tools to promote animal health and welfare in the dairy industry.
JMB: Any cool new apps coming down the pipeline?
T.B.: I am currently working on four other apps that will continue to aid the dairy industry. These apps will help with assessing the milk prep routine, teat end scoring, calving pen monitoring, and calf feeding and management.