Come calving season, most producers have compiled all the tools necessary to deliver and care for newborn calves. In almost every stockman's shirt pocket, wallet or truck dashboard you can find some form of record-keeping: anything from an Integrated Resource Management (IRM) Redbook from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) to a simple piece of scratch paper full of numbers, notes and dates. Recording information such as calf weight, gender, ear tag number, dam info and other relevant data is crucial so best management decisions can be made further along in the production cycle.
While any method of data collection is better than none, the ability to compile, use and learn something from those raw numbers and notes is the real challenge. NCBA provides a free, digital version of the Redbook in an Excel workbook (download here). It is an excellent way to record information on the ranch and is full of useful figures and management tools. However, a key component is absent even with this platform: mobile accessibility.
The ability to input data easily has become more of a requirement than a luxury in today's world of mobile applications and software. Calf Book is a web-based application with a mobile app for your iPhone or Android smartphone that gives cattle producers a simple way to store calving information about their herds. Both the webpage and mobile component are easy to use, making it widely accessible to users of all skill levels. Since no cell service is required to enter information while using the app, dependence on a strong signal is obsolete. The devices automatically sync when cell signal is obtained, which makes the latest information available on all devices. Multiple users can also share a single account, making it pain-free to share information.
Calf Book offers a free, no-obligation 30-day trial, allowing ranchers the opportunity to try their product before purchase. There are two subscription levels after the trial period expires, both of which are collected annually: a $5 "Basic Plan" or a $15 "Plus Plan." The Basic Plan allows the operator to input calving, breeding and cow data, and generate basic reports such as calving history, income of a calf crop and overall breeding information. The Plus Plan offers the same features as the Basic Plan as well as the ability to import/export cow and bull data, and export reports in an Excel format. Both subscriptions provide a semen tank inventory function and a basic gestation calendar.
- Multiple platforms (web and mobile)
- Online tutorials and support through Facebook page
- Not reliant on cell service for use in field
- Trial period before purchase
- Simple and easy to use
This application has much to offer cattle producers but a few improvements could be made to make it an even more powerful tool. First, the data entry fields are not customizable. Not every producer will record the same information as another, so having the ability to personalize what types of data are recorded would be beneficial. Second, there are no EPDs associated with bulls used for breeding or in the semen tank inventory. Finally, the trial period only unlocks the Basic Plan level of features. Being able to enter your own production data, generate reports and see how this app could benefit you in its full capacity could possibly secure more subscriptions.
- No way to input bull EPDs
- No receipts for cow/bull sales
- Lack of customization
- Trial period only unlocks Basic Plan features and functionality
Calf Book provides a simple, highly accessible avenue to enter calving information. While there will always be a place for pen and paper, migrating record-keeping to a more systematic and analytical location such as this application will provide cattle producers with more useful information.