If your mind is open to using digital technology in the barn, then you will agree that everything from the first PDA’s to the newest phones have forever changed our dairy management and communication capabilities. We have been amazed at the way phones seem to get cheaper, smaller and faster overnight.  Today, if we want it, we have the power to access information and organize in ways never before possible, using simpler, more effective tools like the smart phone.


Regardless of the tool, the choice of using it or abusing it is ours. Lifestyle farmers may have a knee jerk reaction against technology in the barn.  But again, it’s a choice. Do you want faster resolution of health issues?  More focused work time? Real time updates to bookkeeping and record keeping rather than a once a week, month or year scramble. Regardless of your dairy farming philosophy, there will always be a large list of what needs to be dealt with. Even if you are comfortable with crisis management, your smartphone can ease the pressure when panic strikes.


Some people use all the power and functionality of their smartphone.  Others only use a few features.  No matter which side you are on, here are three that can make an enormous impact on how you manage.

Synchronize Your Calendars – One of the most powerful smartphone features is the ability to sync your information across multiple devices.  Synchronizing is not a new word in the dairy business, but using it to mean that all your electronic devices are intern-connected may be a new application. At the very least, ensure that your calendar is synched to your desktop, office and home PC. This will allow you to maintain one calendar instead of many separate ones.  The same is true for your contacts and to do items.

Use the Camera For MORE than Pictures – Beyond the picture of your calf, your John Deere or a “selfie,” your smartphone’s camera can be used to capture all kinds of information.  Whiteboards.  Notes. Reminders.  (Which pasture feeder is empty?)  Documents.  And more.  There are some great applications to help you manage your information pictures.


You could be holding back from advertising the genetic successes that your dairy is producing because of your reluctance to take time to meet and coordinate with a photographer, magazine ad salesperson and your banker. That’s why you should consider YouTube videos that can be made with smartphone cameras and (with or without cheap props) can generate as much buzz as a very expensive ad campaign. The brilliance is that you can have it at the right time …. YOUR time! Instant visibility.  Ongoing market awareness.


There are pitfalls in using any tool.  The smartphone is no exception.

  • USE IT WISELY: You can let your smartphone help you or you can let it complicate your life and take up all your time.
  • SAFETY FIRST!  Don’t let your new buddy in your hand distract your attention from safe procedures that are necessary on every dairy operation.
  • DON’T INTRUDE: Don’t pressure your friends. You aren’t the only one who wants to manage their time. Don’t interfere with others.

“Keep Calm and Carry a Smart Phone”

A couple of weeks ago my 12-year-old grand-daughter was in charge of her sister – … when the family dog, while chewing on a stick, got a piece lodged between her gums.  Frantic and unable to close her mouth, the dog began shaking her head spraying spit at an alarming rate.  Thinking fast, my grand-girl grabbed her smart phone, took a quick video and forwarded it to her parents with accompanying questions about, “What should I do?”  Very quickly both mom and dad responded.  One was on the way home.  The other got on the phone and reassured that the situation was not life-threatening and would soon be resolved. Thank goodness for the bright girl and smart phone.

“Should You Hire or Fire Your Smart Phone?”

By using a smartphone, your farm team can start developing systems to work better, cover for each other and share project information. As each person knows more about the dairy’s priorities, they can understand and anticipate each other’s needs better. They can overlap responsibilities and the needs of the herd re well-covered. The smartphone camera, text and email capture issues and transforms the work day. Could you imagine just a couple of years ago that a manager could walk through the barn or pasture with a handheld smartphone, review cattle within sight, update information on heats and health, electronically send tasks to other staff, take photos, capture videos and voice memos, then have all that information be available in the office? Alternatively, could you have imagined just a few years ago that a dairy owner could actually leave the farm with the family and still be connected enough for consultation or updates? Many would not have thought that possible. It is now.

Always Connected. Office time is Blending with Barn Time

In the past, after chores were done, there was still the desk work. Today many dairy managers are taking a page from medical professionals who are accessing medical files in real cow side time. And speaking of professionals, vets, nutritionists and feed suppliers are increasingly willing to consult using digital devices. In the next few years, the fields of dairy health and management will become radically transformed.  Smartphones will pair with the Internet “cloud” to monitor individual health to the greater benefit of the cattle. “One-size-fits-all” cow care will become a thing of the past. It is not difficult to envision a day when an animal caregiver will have individual cow vital statistics and health data available in 24/7 on his or her smartphone.

“There are Other Digital Devices” ….. “Beyond the Smart Phone”

Increasingly available and/or developing quickly or on the horizon

  • Laboratory and “cow side” blood and milk testing for pregnancy and hormone status
  • Robotic milking units married to complex testing mechanisms that give real-time, current physiological data on the cow, including conductivity measurement to diagnose mastitis status, progesterone levels to aid breeding management and beta hydroxyl butyric acid (BHBA) quantification to reveal subclinical and clinical ketosis.
  • Individual cow monitoring technology via activity and rumination monitors.
  •  Economical, in-dwelling rumen boluses that collect and report rumen pH and other metabolic and physiological variables.

“Farming with Your Smartphone:  Get the most work done … and get a break too!

No matter where you are, eventually someone will talk about overcoming smartphone obsession.  They are concerned that we don’t interact or make real connections. We are devolving into a world with less face time.  They scream “It’s taking over work life balance!”   Well, in the first place, for dairy farmers work-life balance has never meant the same as it does for people with regular day where you are at work or not at work. Secondly, most dairy farmers have already chosen to blur the lines between work and life, and see balance as that wonderful situation where they get to do everything! Many time management organizers frown on this preference for multi-tasking – but they are not in the hurry up and wait world that happens daily on a dairy operation.  Around calving, loading, feed delivery or weather change on harvest or planting days you are literally at a standstill.  With a smart phone, your office is wherever you are. On those same days, when you are in “hell bent for leather” mode, being able to call for help, assign priorities or order in pizza for everybody seems like the best balancing act of all!


Whether you’re an early adopter or the last one to follow the crowd, longevity in the dairy business means producing healthy milk at enough profit margin to meet the needs of you and your dependants.  Whether that’s three cows in a village in Africa or 300,000 on a dairy in Florida, it is the difference between the cost of production and the profit received that makes a dairy business sustainable or not. You can’t phone it in, but you can dial into modern methods and make continuous improvements.


Let’s face it.  We love our cows, but there’s always room for improvement. Are you operating at your most effective level? The next time you’re in the middle of a significant crisis or even a minor problem, ask yourself if a smartphone could have helped. If the answer is “Yes!”  then get smart and …..” Pick up the phone!!!”




Get original “Bullvine” content sent straight to your email inbox for free.