Working on a ranch can be an extraordinary stressful job, between managing cattle, numbers and people. Unlike other sectors of the ag industry, ranchers haven’t had the benefit of technology to help them out in their day to day tasks.
“The cattle producer is an underserved market but you guys deal with more variables, take more risk and have more capital out there than any other farmer,” said Dane Kuper, co-founder of Performance Livestock Analytics.
Performance Livestock is a cattle managing app that has added features over the last three years in an effort to bring ranching into the digital age.
Kuper and his partner and co-founder Dustin Balsley, sat down this summer with dozens of ranchers at 3B Farms outside Adrian, Minnesota to discuss how their app can change the course of livestock agriculture.
The app, which debuted in 2017, was developed after the pair realized that while crop producers have a wide selection of management apps, cattle producers were stuck with basic record keeping programs.
Over the last three years, Balsley and Kuper have gathering input from producers to see which features they could use.
“Every operation is different,” Balsley said. “We all manage cattle just a little bit different. The challenge for us is to make a software system that works for all of you.”
The newest tool from Performance Livestock is a benchmarking section of the app where producers can compare their progress with all other producers. It’s a way to help northern ranchers see how they are comparing with their southern counterparts and neighbors, said Pat Cowan, sales representative for Elanco, a company that partners with Performance Livestock.
“There never really has been a great way to capture that data,” he said.
Over time, the benchmarking app will get better as more data is put into it. The program doesn’t share a producer’s personal information. Rather, it aggregates pooled data over time.
The next step for the benchmarking tool will be to compare the performance of cattle raised indoors and outdoors. It’s about making sure you’re getting the best bang for your buck, Cowan said.
Other features in the works involve tracking individual animals and more integrating Performance Livestock with other farm systems. A chute-side app will work in conjunction with Performance Livestock in the future, and electronic ID tags help speed the process of collecting data.
New RFID tags – or Radio Frequency ID – are coming to the market and Balsley said they are the future for cattle. An even newer version of the RFID model is the UHF tag, for Ultra High Frequency, which can read an entire pen of cattle without ever having to address the program.
“The goal is to not touch the iPad as you’re running those head through the chute,” Balsley said.
The company is working to secure a contract to ship out thousands of these tags to their customers at a reduced rate. Balsley’s is to offer then for about $3 instead of $15 per head.
As the Performance Livestock app continues to expand, Balsley said the goal is keep the program user friendly. When he tests new features out, he joked that he goes first to his dad to make sure anyone can use it.
With new features launching near the end of the year and with 20-25 new members each week, Balsley said the sky is the limit for where the app can take ranchers.
“I’m just excited to see where it’s going,” he said.
Jager Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.