Mobile apps help dairy farmers compute costs

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It’s a digital world – and agriculture is no exception. More and more, farmers and ranchers are moving away from traditional methods of getting their news and information. Mobile devices are convenient, budget-friendly ways for farmers and ranchers to stay up-to-date on a variety of agricultural issues.

Penn State University (PSU) Extension released a mobile app, “DairyCents,” for dairy farmers to easily calculate their income over feed cost (milk income per cow per day, minus feed cost per cow per day). The app also allows farmers to compare their feed costs with the costs paid by others.  As the DairyCents database grows, farmers should find more options to get the best prices for various grains and forages.    

“The income-over-feed cost is a good barometer for how their operation is doing,” said Virginia Ishler, PSU nutrient management specialist and dairy complex manager. “It gives farmers a feel for how much money is left over at the end of the month to pay bills.”

DairyCents, available for download on Android devices and iPhones since August 2012, currently has more than 1,000 registered users in all 50 states and is set to expand soon.  With support from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Mid-Atlantic Water Program, PSU Extension’s second-generation DairyCents app will include information to help farmers keep their operations environmentally-friendly.

The newest edition of DairyCents will include a precision feeding app that will track feed efficiency and estimate nutrient excretion. Dairy producers can use this information to alter and monitor diets to decrease the amount of nutrients and solids in manure that are subsequently spread on crop fields.  The goal is for this app feature to decrease the amount of nutrients and manure solids that could potentially enter into the Chesapeake Bay or other water bodies as runoff.  According to Rebecca White, PSU dairy extension program manager, this app is currently being tested and will be released within the next few months.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education, and Extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people’s daily lives and the nation’s future.



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