The challenge arises in keeping up with the ever-increasing rate of advancement. For those who make the effort to understand and use these new tools, technology can make a major difference in an operation’s bottom line.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service offered workshops to teach farmers and ranchers to use agricultural applications (apps) for smartphones and tablets to make more timely and effective decisions.

The workshops were held in several counties and furnished tablets for producers to practice finding and using the apps.

Jackie Smith, an extension economist and one of the two presenters for the workshop, says that time was spent teaching the attendees basic operation skills of the iPads, how to locate and use relevant apps and different ways to apply the apps’ functions on a ranch or farm.

Finding what’s useful
Smith and his colleague Jay Yates prepared for the workshops by reviewing available ag apps in various categories including market watches, record-keeping and weather.


From these, Yates and Smith selected about 10 apps per category for the workshop and further picked their favorite two or three to highlight.

Smith says they weren’t promoting these as perfect apps but rather comparing the strengths and weaknesses of each and discussing how they could be useful in operations of different sizes or in different regions.

Smith says, “We’re not trying to say they have to use it. We’re just helping them find what’s useful to them.”

David Mundine, owner of the 4M Ranch in Refugio County, Texas, not only attended the workshop but was also part of the committee that set up the workshop in his region.

Mundine says, “There are tools there to be used if you know about and then learn to use them; they will greatly enhance agricultural business. The greatest thing for me was they showed us where to go to find the apps and they made it very practical.”

A sample of apps
Smith picked some of his favorite apps featured in the workshop. These ranch-related apps include:

  • Compendium of Veterinary Products (CVP) – This app by Bayer allows a producer to select a species, enter the disease or symptoms and access a list of the medicines that are recommended with side effects and dosages.
  •  Feed Cost Calculator – South Dakota State’s Feed Cost Calculator app allows livestock producers to compare two available feedstuffs based on their relative cost per pound of protein and energy delivered. The app will return the delivered cost per pound of each feed and the break-even cost for the second feed as compared to the first.
  •  Cattle Fax – The Cattle Fax app offers market information. It includes several calculators to aid in decision-making. Smith described this app as user-friendly, informative and innovative.
  • Cattle Max – The program isn’t an app but can be accessed via the Internet on a tablet or smartphone. It is an in-depth record-keeping program that allows producers to enter information from remote locations.

Time is money
Time is a valuable resource in the beef industry. While it can seem that there isn’t enough of it available to attend workshops like this one or to learn to use apps individually, the tools available can help improve productivity and profitability if they are used.

Smith says, “There are so many times that you need to know what the current futures prices are or what the weather is going to be.

That is something you will need right there. With apps, you can have instant access to markets and make decisions on the go, in the truck or in the sales barn.”

Mundine owned an iPad prior to attending the workshop; he has used what he learned there to use it more effectively. He enjoys the weather app he found at the workshop as well as an app to keep him up to date on market prices.

“Marketing is always a big issue, and the more help you can get there the better your bottom line will be,” says Mundine. “There are some available that I use every day, and they help a lot.”

This workshop was designed to help producers become familiar with the technology and tools available to them to make the best decisions for their operations.

Mundine says, “It was absolutely worth the time. You won’t leave that workshop without gaining knowledge and experience.

“I didn’t use apps before. I’m using apps now because they are useful in managing my operation.”

Like many tools, to use it effectively, technology requires effort and an investment of time and sometimes money.

However, those who take the time to learn can walk away with valuable and practical tools and skills that will mean greater success in the future.  end mark

Jackie Smith, an extension economist, picked a sample of his favorite ranch-related apps which include (left to right) Feed Cost Calculator, Compendium of Veterinary Products (CVP) and Cattle Fax. These and more can be found on the App Store or Google Play Store.

Most-frequent categories of apps:

  • Agronomy
  • Markets
  • Ag news
  • Record-keeping
  • Weather
  • Utilities
  • Machinery
  • Navigation
  • Precision ag
  • Livestock
  • Decision aids
  • Spraying