New technologies, such as smartphones and tablets, allow new opportunities to access almost any type of information and data with the simple tap of an app. Penn State’s Extension Dairy Team has developed a mobile app titled DairyCents that offers two features: calculate income over feed costs (IOFC) and feed price comparisons with the Penn State Feed Price List or other users across the country. Funding was provided in part by the USDA-Risk Management Agency.
The goal of developing the app was to provide useful information to the user while keeping it very simple. Income over feed cost is determined by taking milk income per cow minus feed cost per cow and addresses only the lactating animals. It is a simple calculation but for most producers requires a lot of inputs because of all the different feeds fed and grouping strategies. The question arose: if using readily available market information to simplify the calculation would it result in a number that was realistic to the more in-depth calculation?
Penn State has a very extensive database of feed prices and IOFC for the University dairy herd over multiple years. Starting with market data from 2001, monthly prices for alfalfa hay, milk, corn grain and 48% soybean meal were used to determine feed cost per cow per day on diets developed by Virginia Ishler for cows averaging 65, 75, and 85 pounds of production. The information was graphed over the multiple years and compared to the Penn State dairy’s IOFC. The results showed that trends and interpretations were identical using the simplified version compared to the more in-depth calculation. If a producer wanted to get a sense of what was happening with the markets and how it was affecting IOFC, this app would show similar trends to the more detailed calculation. However, this approach should not replace a farm’s own IOFC as ultimately that is the best measure to determine if feed costs are in line with the herd’s performance.
Using the mobile app DairyCents is as easy as entering a zip code, selecting a milk production level, and date and the app will calculate IOFC. The display will show feed cost/cwt, feed cost/cow, gross milk price, milk margin/cwt milk and IOFC/cow/day. Historic data can also be graphed for IOFC, feed cost and milk price starting from January 2012 on either a per cow or per cwt basis.
The second feature of DairyCents is allowing the user to compare their purchased feed price to the Penn State Feed Price List and to other users in the database who have purchased the same feed. This section of the app allows the user to track over time how prices of select ingredients are trending. Each month the database will be populated with prices from the Penn State Feed Price List. As more users populate the database with their prices, eventually the user can compare their price paid to not only Pennsylvania but to other users across the country. The inputs are very simple: enter zip code, feed selection, unit, price per unit, number of units purchased and date. Feed Prices can be tracked over time and it can also be graphed against the feed price list and other users.
DairyCents is available for free through the app store on iTunes. More information about the app and the calculations can be found at extension.psu.edu/dairycents.