*[UPDATED: Feb. 27, 2018] The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association is dishing out a taste of its new cow-calf record-keeping tool before it hits the market.
Producers can get a free trial of Herdly, software developed for both desktop and Apple mobile, from now until April 1, 2018, Mark Klassen, CCA director of technical services announced during the Manitoba Beef Producers meeting in Brandon Feb. 8-9.
The software ties into CCA’s work developing a pocket tag reader for RFID tags. The national agency, along with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, began the second phase of the project in 2016, refining the readers for use in the field. Klassen says they hope to commercialize the readers, although the Herdly software will likely be compatible with other readers as well in the future.
The software will be commercialized after the trial period. Klassen estimates that an 85-head herd will cost $18 a month to track with the program.
“I think, ultimately, if you don’t have an automated record-keeping system of some sort, it’s just going to cost you more and more,” he said, pointing to tightening traceability regulations and more industry focus on record-intensive management.
Klassen walked Manitoba’s beef producers through Herdly, which creates a profile of each new animal’s stats, age, vaccination information, picture, health issues, breed composition and other information.
Klassen also argued that the app could be used to track animal groups, management strategies and performance of different parts of the farm.
The program will be integrated with the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency, something the CCA says will save time and frustration on reporting requirements for the regulatory body.
Some producers may be reluctant to abandon their established paper or spreadsheet system, Klassen acknowledged.
“They might struggle initially because they’ve invested so much time in the past,” he said. “What I see is that it doesn’t take much more time and you give them a better tool and they have even better records than before and they kind of recognize that there’s just no way that you can look at your data in multiple ways like you can with the software using a spreadsheet.”
Unfamiliarity with computers may be another obstacle, he said.
Manitoba producers were not totally impressed with the software. One MBP member pointed out that many of Herdly’s features are available on other management systems and have been for years.
“I think you guys are trying to reinvent the wheel… the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association might have money that’s better spent in collaboration with people who have already done heavy lifting in this area,” the producer said, adding that he has been using management software in his own herd for the last four years.
Klassen acknowledged the argument, but stood by the software saying that the program pulls ahead of other options on usability.
“There’s a diversity of these out there,” he said. “Some of those are influenced by price point. Some of the software packages are basically sold in the context of veterinary arrangements. That’s not what everybody wants. Some people would just like to buy the software or use the software at a relatively low price.”
*Herdly is not viewed through a web browser, he said, but can be integrated onto a phone or other mobile device through the app and does not need an internet connection for farmers wanting to access stored data in the pasture.
“The user interface can fully utilize the features on the phone or tablet that enhance usability which cannot happen to the same degree when you use a web browser,” Klassen said. “This makes the software easier to use, something the producers that have tested our software have indicated is a very important feature.”
“It allows the phone to be fully integrated with accessories like our Pocket Reader for Mobile Devices, including adjusting the reader settings from within the app. This is difficult to accomplish within a web browser,” he later added.
The CCA will be looking for feedback from anyone using the trial software. The organization plans to release online surveys to note their experience before the software is commercialized.
More information and links to the program can be found at www.cattle.ca/tech.