Data & Systems Project
Accessing data to support on farm decisions can be problematic. Even farmers using sophisticated software solutions are required to manually capture much of the data needed. Where tools do exist, there is a lack of standardisation in the outputs across the sector.
The Status Quo
Approximately only 10% of farm businesses use data to any great extent, due either to being unaware of the potential value or the challenges of data collection. Utilisation of information may also be impacted by the inability to analysis outputs or a lack of confidence to use the information to make changes.
Increase the utilisation of data within the sector; encourage the use of benchmarking to drive measurement and understanding of animal and farm performance; create a compelling digital online resource and decision support tools for farmers and rural professionals.
RMPP conducted research in 2014 which showed that there is genuine desire from farmers for more opportunities to upskill. There were certain areas that were lacking in particular and a frustration around not knowing how to access information therefore opportunities to make better on-farm decisions were being missed. There is a lack of farmer awareness of existing services and available knowledge to support best-practice. There is also a lack of a structured learning process for sector participants.
A recently launched app for smartphones, tablets and computers helps farmers make instant and accurate decisions around feed management while they are in the paddock.
The Feedsmart app brings together a raft of variables to give farmers instant information on nutritional requirements of different classes of livestock, feed values and feed allocation.
Developed by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) in conjunction with RMPP, the app will help farmers estimate the feed requirements for sheep and cattle at any time of the year and for different levels of production.
B+LNZ senior extension manager Aaron Meikle says the app also has simple tools for day-to-day feed allocation information. This includes how long a paddock of feed will last, the size of the break needed to meet nutritional requirements and stocking rates.
While it is set to standard levels of feed quality, topography, supplement quality and animal size, farmers can customise the settings to suit their operations.
Meikle says the app was developed in response to demand for feed management information from farmers.
He says the most searched for items on the B+LNZ website are feed demand, feed values and feed nutrition calculations.
Similarly, the most popular of the organisations regular publications are "A Guide to Feed Planning for Sheep Farmers" and "Energy Requirements of Cattle." These publications contain feed tables but Meikle says tables require some interpretation and often multiple tables have to be used to generate the required data for different classes of livestock at different times of the year.
"Back in 2012 B+LNZ started tossing the idea around about app or software that would make the process of feed management simple and effective. With the advent of RMPP and with requests from other partners in the programme, the idea was picked up and delivered.
The app is available free of charge at www.feedsmart.co.nz and once downloaded, it works offline anywhere, anytime a device is turned on. The app is compatible with any computer, tablet or smart phone.