Farm Horizons, June 2013

Apps for farming?

By Starrla Cray

You can’t clean a barn stall with them, but apps have plenty of uses on a farm.

“We use them just about every day, because there is an app for almost anything now,” said Winsted farmer Ryan Horstmann, son of Tom and Mary Jo Horstmann.

Apps (which are software applications for cell phones and iPads), have been increasing in popularity for entertainment, education, business, and farm use in recent months.

“It makes record-keeping much more convenient,” said Rachelle Krienke, who farms with her husband, Kraig, near Lester Prairie.

Dairy Comp 305 is one app farmers use to analyze reproductive data, monitor herd performance, track diseases and treatments, and more.

“The program has almost endless possibilities,” Rachelle said. “There are hundreds of commands, and you can make all kinds of graphs and reports.”

The Krienke family started using smartphones about 1.5 years ago, and got an iPad in January.

Three apps they use on a regular basis include Dairy Market Central (for market information and dairy news), AgWeb (news about business, livestock, and crops), and DTN (formerly known as Data Transmission Network; provides weather updates and ag-related news).

Ryan also finds DTN’s information valuable, but prefers going straight to the website instead of using an app.

“There is so much more functionality in checking markets, news, cash bids, etc.,” he noted. “I think a number of apps limit what you can do and look at, compared to their full website.”

Google Earth is one of them. The app provides an aerial view of land, which can aid in planning efficient operation and maintenance strategies. However, the computer program has satellite image history for multiple years, a feature lacking in the mobile app.

One of Ryan’s favorite apps is agIndex, which includes markets, news, and weather.

“While a number of apps give you a quick look at where the markets are going, agIndex seems to be one of the few that shows commodity prices for more than just the nearby futures contract month,” he said. “This is extremely helpful if you’re looking at pricing not just this year’s crop, but next year’s crop as well.”

Those searching strictly for weather information have an assortment of apps to choose from, such as AccuWeather, Yahoo! Weather, and The Weather Channel, to name a few.

“The app we prefer is Weatherbug,” Ryan said. “It gives you local weather, radar, and updates – and it’s easy to use.”

Some apps are developed by private businesses, while others are created by universities. Whether it’s weed identification, crop protection recommendations, or grain shrinkage calculation, farmers have plenty of options right at their fingertips.

“The future looks bright for apps in farming,” Ryan noted. “More apps are created and being improved upon all the time.”

What is an app?

An app (short for “application”) is basically a type of software application designed to run on a mobile device (like an iPad or Android phone).

Apps are downloaded from the Internet for many business and personal uses. Many are free, while others need to be purchased.

In an agriculture setting, apps can enable farmers to quickly check markets and weather, keep detailed records of their cow’s milk production, budget fuel usage, and much more.

A few apps to try

Many apps are available for free at the Apple and Android app stores online. Here is a small sampling of apps used in agriculture, according to an article on AgWeb:

• Commodity Prices. Track corn, soybeans, wheat, and more.

• USDA News Reader. Stay up-to-date on news, recovery plans, and programs.

• Livestock Manager. Track information about your animals.

• Cash Grain Bids. Find out local cash bids and base levels.

(www.agweb.com)

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