CLAY COUNTY, Texas (Nexstar) — Alan Schaffner is low-tech. He also prides himself in efficiency.
“You’d have what you call dashboard record keeping,” he said. “Farmers and ranchers keep their information on the dashboard of the pick up, and you just open the door in the wind blows away and it rains on it or it just is never current.”
“It always frustrated me, trying to keep your records on paper,” Schaffner said. “And never current, no matter how hard you try.”
The pen-and-paper approach wasn’t cutting it for the Clay County farmer, who lives outside Wichita Falls.
“I tried to keep records on my notes section of my phone,” he recalled. “You just couldn’t keep it current either — and that’s just your livestock numbers.”
So he turned to tech.
“I talked to my wife about it and she kind of looked at me like I had gone off the deep end,” he remembered. “After we talked about it a little bit it seemed like a venture that we wanted to chase.”
He worked with an app developer to create a digital way to track his herd of cattle.
“It keeps records of the number of cattle in the pasture, even during calving season you can track an increase on the herd size… all the way to healthcare,” he said.
“It will help you when you do your budgets, when you go and want to do your bank loans, where you can turn in your assets and expenditures real easy,” he said. “It just helps you keep your records.”
Schaffner has worked for three years to fine-tune the app, called HerdConnect.
“I don’t know anything about computer programming, so I’ve had to hire somebody to do the programming of it,” he said.
“It has been a long process and trying to do the programming,” he explained.
He has been using the app for about a year-and-a-half, with plans to launch it in app stores for other ranchers to download.
Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said farmers and ranchers are learning how to do more with less.
“Agriculture 1.0 was subsistence farming, 40 acres and a mule. Agriculture 2.0 was the age of mechanization where we had tractors and combines, and now we’ve got huge tractors and huge combines and one farmer can farm 1,000 or 2,000 acres just through mechanization,” Miller said.
“We are in Agriculture 3.0,” Miller said. “We have gone from mechanization into the technology age, so the app to track your cows is one example.”
Miller said agriculture producers in the state largely won’t be able to fully automate, but are working to maximize resources.
“You still have to have humans involved, somebody has got to be there to push the button and make sure the electricity is running, and run the samples, run the tests, and do all of that,” he explained. “We will never eliminate all of the labor, but through technology we are eliminating as much as we can, because … we have to grow more with less.”