Running a dairy farm is not for the faint-hearted. Early morning starts and long days filled with heavy manual labor, plenty of multi-tasking, crisis management, and overseeing staff make for a very demanding job. Farm managers might not do all the heavy lifting themselves, but they are the linchpin that keeps the farm running smoothly – ensuring that animals are kept in optimal conditions for milk production and fertility and that any problems are quickly detected and dealt with so that the farm operates at its maximum capacity all year round.
A farm manager’s job looks very different today from what it did even ten years ago. Prior to the digital transformation of farming, dairy farmers had to track the daily activities and tasks on the farm manually. When you consider the vast amount of data a farm generates – from health and fertility statistics to production volume, milk quality, and food consumption – it becomes clear how much of an asset a digitalized farm can be. Tools such as electronic collars, leg tags, and milk sensors have automated the collection of critical data about each cow, including detailed information about health and fertility status, activity levels, rumination, and more. Not only has this changed the daily experience for farm managers and workers, but has made dairy farms significantly more efficient and profitable.
Using the Afifarm software platform, farmers now have the additional benefit of being able to drill down into any data set and generate reports that help them make decisions that impact the farm’s efficiency and profitability. Now with the Afi2Go Prime mobile app, farmers can effectively monitor and run their farms from a mobile device, viewing data in real-time as they go about their busy workday and making decisions on- the- fly.
Sliding Doors: The Story of Tom Hiscocks Farm Before and After Afi2Go Prime
Tom Hiscock has been running Charcroft Farm in partnership with his father and brother for many years. The family business includes a herd of 350 dairy cows on over 500 acres of farmland.
Over and above the normal challenges of running a large dairy farm, Tom and his team have been struggling with heat detection and cow health tracking. They have had particular difficulty devising an efficient system for storing each cow’s data and making it readily accessible to all the relevant stakeholders on the farm. Assuming this was a standard challenge for any dairy farm, they struggled on as best they could, totally unaware that there was a better way.
Charcroft Farm BEFORE Afi2Go Prime
Tom wakes up with the sun and heads to the farm office to prepare for the day. He prints out the list of 350 cows and starts writing notes for his team. On the basis of information gathered manually in the previous week, he informs them about which cows he thinks need to be inseminated, which ones require pregnancy checks, and other details and tasks that have to take place during the day.
He makes a copy of the list for each worker and hopes they will each take care of their assigned cows and won’t accidentally do double work or – worse – inseminate the wrong cow. After the workers arrive, there is a quick meeting in which everyone gets their assigned tasks for the day. Tom has to be very organized and check his notes a few times to ensure that he’s assigned all the tasks that need to be done to workers. He tries to divide the work evenly, but it’s impossible to know when something unexpected might arise, taking a worker away from their planned assignments.
The workers spread out across the farm and spend the day tracking down the relevant cows for their pregnancy checks, inseminations, vaccines, hoof trimmings, antibiotics, health checks, or anything else they might need. Some workers are tasked with managing the milking process, including bringing the cows to the milking parlor at the right time, hooking them up to the machinery, and troubleshooting any issues that arise. Each worker has his or her paper list on which to write down any important notes about each cow and tick off each task as it is completed.
As the day draws to a close, the workers return to the office with their, by now mud-stained lists filled with handwritten notes. Tom spends the next few hours reviewing the lists and inputting important information into his spreadsheets, notes and to-do lists.. He tries not to get too frustrated when he can’t read the handwriting or when it becomes clear that a few cows were inadvertently not given the attention they required. He can’t help but think that there must be a better way to keep track of all of the tasks that must be done!
Charcroft Farm AFTER Afi2Go Prime
After seeing a random post on Facebook, Tom Hiscock enters a competition and wins a free installation of Afimilk’s cow collars which he teams up with the Afi2Go Prime app.
Here is an overview of life after adopting these life-changing solutions:
The Manager’s View
Today Tom does his initial check-in via the Afi2Go Prime app on his cell phone while finishing his cup of coffee at the breakfast table. Afi2Go is the ideal management tool for him because it gives him the flexibility to work wherever he is. Once he is on the farm, he can look at the app any time and get an overview of how the day’s work is going for his team and what still needs to be done that day. He knows exactly what to chase up.
Tom starts off by identifying which cows need to be inseminated that day. Among the capabilities of the AfiCollar is its ability to predict with great accuracy exactly when a cow is in heat and the most optimal time for insemination. Tom is amazed at how much easier the collar has made it to solve one of their biggest problems – detecting heat, including quiet heats. It has removed any guesswork and by using real-time data, has given them the biggest window of opportunity to inseminate their cows.
He then uses the app to create a list of cows who should be coming into heat but are not and assigns them to be visited by the vet. By addressing problems early, he is ensuring his cows get better treatment and, ultimately a higher rate of pregnancies. Tom also checks to see how many cows are sick or are suspected to have an illness and decides which should also see the vet while he is there and which should just be monitored.
Tom’s dashboard view is customized to suit whatever it is that he most needs to see, and he quickly assigns tasks to each worker based on his review of the data. His coffee finished, Tom heads to the farm. As his team progresses through the day and checks off finished tasks, he sees the task numbers going down on his app. He can check the status of a farm worker, the tasks, and the herd at any given time, and if an unexpected situation arises, it’s easy for Tom to add or re-assign tasks in real-time. Automatic notifications ensure that no one misses any important changes or updates.
The app automatically syncs with AfiFarm so there is no need for Tom to manually enter information at the end of the day. With all tasks completed and the herd content, Tom heads home for a good night’s rest. Don’t ask him what life would be like without this technology. “We cannot imagine life without [Afi2Go] now.” he says, “It’s just a pocket encyclopedia of the cows.” This has led to the best possible outcome for Tom, who is now easily and accurately able to detect heats and sick cows, freeing him up to focus on some of the strategic issues facing the farm and spend more time with his family.
The Worker’s View
Afi2Go has quickly become the farmworker’s best friend. It acts like a personal assistant in their pocket, giving them a view of the day’s activities and letting them know what they need to do next. Arriving at the farm, each team member checks the app for a personalized list of all their tasks for the day and gets cracking straight away – no need to wait for Tom who is busy elsewhere. As they run down the list and complete each task, they simply mark it as “done” and move on to the next.
The Afi2Go app has been designed and built with the realities of farm work life in mind, so the team is happy to use it. To save time and speed processes up, almost everything can be done with just one click. In fact, on Afi2Go even the button placements were planned specifically to enable workers to operate the app with one hand or, in many cases, with just one thumb.
If we look over the shoulder of a worker who has just inseminated a cow, we can see that all they do is click on the cow number and the screen comes up with 2 options: inseminate – confirm or reject. With a quick click on confirm, the system has been updated and he moves on to the next task. There is also the option for him to add notes whenever necessary.
The app works just as fast as the farmers do. As soon as one task is finished, the next one immediately pops up on the screen. All of the syncing with AfiFarm is done in the background and in real-time, with no latency. Nothing will hold the farmer workers back from working as efficiently as possible.
The Results of a Mobile-Managed Farm
Life on Charcroft Farm changed dramatically the day Tom won the cow collars and started using them alongside Afi2Go Prime. Tom always has a handle on exactly what work is being done and who is doing it, and he can make changes on the fly in response to real-time situations without any undue stress. He has found himself with more time to look at bigger-picture issues and consider the implications of all the data he now has at his disposal. The workers, as well, have become significantly more efficient, saving so much time that used to be spent taking handwritten notes and tracking down the right cows. Everyone is happier and the farm is running more efficiently – and more profitably – than ever.
What started as winning a random contest on Facebook – has turned into a game-changer for Tom and Charcroft Farm. Tom says, “I can see my relationship with Afimilk growing stronger and hopefully incorporating it into the milking parlor and getting positive results, which would have a very positive financial impact.”
With Afimilk by his side, Tom is able to improve the management, productivity, and profitability of his farm, all while also improving his work-life balance. We call that a win-win!
Be like Tom and explore what Afi2Go Prime can do for your farm!