As a progressive livestock farmer, you care deeply about your pasture. You want to manage it well. And you are looking for ways to do this digitally.
First of all, I want to congratulate you. Just by deciding to measure your pasture and doing it digitally, you are way ahead in the game, compared to most other livestock farmers.
Because let's face it, you cannot really manage your pasture without tracking key measurements over time. And using paper-based tools to do this is a headache.
In this article, I want to tell you all about the different apps you can use to make your job easier. And help you find the right one for you. Let’s begin.
Why was the farm app built?
There are several apps in the market today, both free as well as paid apps. So how do you select an app that is right for you? You begin by asking what an app was built for. Let me explain.
Generic apps such as Excel, Filemaker and MS Access were built to help anyone store and analyse data. In other words, they were made for broad usage scenarios, to help accountants, HR professionals, teachers and farmers.
The advantage of using generic apps is that you might already have them on your computer and might even know how to use one. However, this also comes with a few disadvantages. A generic app is not built specifically to help you with pasture data. And because of this, it might not have the features you need.
For instance, these generic tools cannot help you plan your rotational grazing schedules in a straight forward manner, at least without you customising it enough to suit your needs.
Another significant disadvantage is that using a generic app might cost you a lot more in terms of time and effort when compared to what you can achieve using pasture specific apps.
But, if you have simple needs, you would be able to use the generic apps and create customised templates to help you store and analyse your pasture data. However, this might not be enough.
In this case, you might be better off using specific apps that were built to help you store and analyse your pasture data. Some popular pasture specific apps are Grazing Wedge, Pasture Coach, Agrinet Grass, Pasture Map, Hawkeye, Farmote, MINDA Land & Feed and of course our very own Pasture.io.
What can a pasture app help you do?
Among pasture specific apps, there are several differences. To choose the app best suited for your needs, you need to understand what each app can help you do.
Storing and analysing your pasture measurement data
All pasture specific apps will help you enter and store your pasture measurement data and map it to specific paddocks or locations on your farm. Some will do this seamlessly, while others might need you to do a few extra steps.
However, this is very important because it can help you analyse patterns over time and help you take better overall pasture management decisions.
This is tremendously useful. It will also save you a lot of time when compared to the generic apps, especially, given the fact that you want to measure your pasture at least once a week.
If this alone is your need, then you are probably better off choosing between Grazing Wedge, Pasture Coach, Agrinet Grass, and Pasture.io’s free plan.
Getting your pasture measurement data
However, a big problem for most farmers like you is that you don’t have half a day, every week to get your pasture measurement data. Notably, in peak calving season, when you need accurate pasture data the most.
This is where advancements in technology come into play. Today, you can choose from a range of options that will also help you get pasture measurement data, as well as to analyse the data.
Some of them will need you to invest in costly hardware, such as pasture meters and electronic motes. In contrast, other service providers such as LIC Space and Pasture.io use more advanced technology to do this without needing any hardware investments or manual effort.
Finding your right grazing app
Things quickly become apparent, when we map all the grazing apps against 1) why the app was built and 2) what it can help you do. Depending on your needs, you can choose the right app for your needs.
The actual costs of using (or not using) farm apps
It might be tempting to pick the apps that have the lowest cost. Stop. You might be taking the wrong decision if you look at just the monetary cost of using an app.
Because, when we talk about the monetary cost of measuring your pasture, it is easy to only think about how much money you might spend to use a grazing app. However, in reality, in addition to this usage cost, there are also other associated labour, maintenance, and opportunity costs involved.
To take a more informed decision, you also need to take into account these costs. For instance, Excel might be free, but it will cost you a lot in terms of your time and effort, every time you want to use it to analyse your pasture data.
Similarly, you may spend around 100 euros a year to use a pasture specific app such as Agrinet Grass. However, this can save you a lot more in terms of your time and effort, especially when it comes to analysing your data and creating grazing plans based on your data.
On the other hand, you could invest around 1,000 dollars a year to use a satellite-based service such as Pasture.io to get accurate pasture data every few days, on your smartphone, automatically. This will save you a lot more in terms of your time, effort and opportunity costs. Farmers using this service have seen up to a 40x return on investment.
When seen in this light, it quickly becomes apparent that satellite-based pasture specific apps such as LIC Space and Pasture.io offer several advantages. Such as accurate data, automatic measurements, and pasture analysis. You can also read a detailed comparison of both these services here.
I trust that this was useful to you. If you have any further questions for me, do write them as a comment below. I will answer them personally.
I will see you again with another useful article, until then.
- Ollie Roberts, 05 Feb 2020