Technology helps cattle feeder manage costs

Photos courtesy of Calvin Lowry 0124H1-2126A-1540x800-(2).jpg
TRACKING FEED COSTS: Calvin Lowry of Prairie View, Kan., uses Performance Livestock Analytics, a cattle management software and technology system, to provide insights into the Lowry Ranch backgrounding yard in real time. Performance Livestock Analytics, or Performance Beef, is a Zoetis product.
Cloud-based software tracks cattle feed and animal health inputs in real time.

You can’t manage what you can’t measure. And in agriculture — where the line between profit and loss is as thin as a dime — tools that better help you measure costly inputs can help you improve your profitability.

Calvin Lowry owns Lowry Ranch in Prairie View, Kan. He and his son have a herd of Angus cows and also operate a small backgrounding yard, where they feed their own cattle as well as contracted cattle. Lowry uses Performance Livestock Analytics, a cattle management software and technology system that provides him insights into their backgrounding yard in real time. Performance Livestock Analytics, or Performance Beef, is a Zoetis product.

Time-saver

Performance Beef provides a lot of benefits, but chief for Lowry is that it saves him time and money when it comes to feeding those backgrounded cattle. The system consists of an app for an iPhone, iPad or desktop computer that is connected to tracking technology that is installed on scales, the feed truck and at the chute, It uses electronic ID cattle tags to track individual animals. Zoetis explains that Performance Beef integrates feed, financial and cattle health information into one cloud-based platform, and eliminates double data entry.

computer with detailed closeout information on the cattle
CLOSEOUT INFORMATION: Calvin Lowry says Performance Livestock Analytics, or Performance Beef, gives him detailed closeout information on the cattle he backgrounds within minutes — compared to the old way of tracking inputs with paper and pen.

At Lowry Ranch, the Lowrys have sensors installed on their scales and their feed trucks that measure how much of each feed was loaded into the feed wagon, as well as distributed to each pen of cattle. They also have sensors on their cattle chutes that read the electronic ID tags on each head, allowing their crew to track what animal health products were used on which calf. 

With all of that data available in real time, 24/7, and over his iPhone or iPad, Lowry says he can provide his customers with pinpoint accuracy on what was fed to their cattle, what animal health products their cattle received and when, and more.

“I can do all of my billing in 15 minutes from my computer in the house,” Lowry says. “When I ship cattle, I can get a closeout on those cattle in 10 minutes, and the owner knows exactly what he made or lost on the pen.

“Before this, we would write each feeding of each pen down on a feed sheet, and how many pounds of what ration they were fed,” he adds. Sorting through handwritten records would take him hours, he says.

“When we get done processing a pen of cattle, it will show me the exact cost of what that owner is paying, how much those calves have gained since they were last through the chute, the biggest calf in the pen, the smallest, the average daily gain for the bunch — and down to the average daily gain for individual calves,” Lowry says.

Added benefits

But saving time is just the beginning, Lowry says. There’s a long list of other benefits to his operation that keep him a Performance Beef customer:

 Animal health. Lowry says he can tell clients just how many times a calf was treated, and with what products, because of the animal’s electronic ID tag that is connected to the app. That sort of verified data can be a premium for the right buyer, he says.

 Exact feed costs. The app tracks how much of each feed component is loaded into the feed wagon, and tracks that feed cost in real time. “I just take my iPad with me to feed, and it tracks the product as I load it into the truck,” Lowry says. So, if he changes the ration by loading more corn or less hay, for example, it will track that, and the owner is charged for exactly what was fed.

 Inventory tracking. Performance Beef tracks the Lowrys’ feed inventory in real time, Lowry says. And as more feed is brought in, Lowry can adjust the price of the feed tracked in the app, and it will automatically adjust the final cost.

 Track anywhere. The cloud-based app means Lowry can monitor what’s going on at the backgrounding yard from his iPhone anywhere he happens to be. That helps him better communicate with his son and crew.

Lowry says the Performance Beef technology ultimately helps him and his family manage their costs, and better care for the cattle contracted to their backgrounding yard.

Performance Livestock Analytics and Zoetis contributed to this article.

 

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