New Generation: Let's Get Smart

December 8, 2015 02:51 AM
New Generation: Let's Get Smart

In my travels working with cattlemen across the country, I often see a resistance to embrace the sweeping technological revolution of smartphones. I am no expert, but I know enough to appreciate that these tools can transform one’s ability to effectively and efficiently manage operations of any size and scope. If you have caught yourself saying, “this thing is supposed to do all kinds of stuff, but I can barely turn it on,” I feel your pain and am here to help. Through a very non-scientific process, I have field tested my device and am ready to share with you the findings. 

The age-old philosophy that hard work pays off still applies today, but the Rancher’s Guide to Success version 2.0 reads: hard work is important, but smart work is a prerequisite. 

With proper use of smart technology, a single employee can significantly increase their ability to manage people, products and profits. A smartphone is actually a  business tool capable of far more than the occasional Facebook glance, tweet or Instagram blast. 

Tasks that used to take hours of office time can now be executed with the swipe of a finger from the cab of a tractor or feed truck. Important logistics management, such as cattle and feed inventories can be easily and efficiently shared through “cloud” storage platforms simultaneously with every employee on the ranch. All can be made accessible with the touch of a finger or voice command. Critical updates to feed mixtures, herd bull pastures, trucking schedules and Beef Quality Assurance health protocol updates can be shared instantly. Did you move some creep feeders and don’t have time to wait around for the feed truck driver to show up and get instructions on the new location? Simply text the GPS coordinates from your smartphone, and they can go right to them without you. 

Smart devices can also provide invaluable access to market information and tools to help plan marketing strategies for selling or buying feeder cattle, fed cattle or replacement heifers. Several apps are available to assist with market tracking. The Beef Today mobile app does a very nice job of tracking all commodities and rates high with me for user friendliness. CattleFax also has a very nice app. Some apps allow you to purchase or sell cattle over your smart device, such as and With mobile banking and bill paying, you can take care of those procurements while you’re sitting in the saddle.  

Real-time communication and connectivity is a powerful tool ranchers can leverage for their benefit. When critical decisions must be made, you need to be accessible. Smart devices offer numerous options and apps to streamline business communication—from texting to instant messaging to walkie-talkie-like apps, such as Voxer. 

Perhaps the most overlooked benefit of all is it can be effectively used to manage a business beyond the confines of the ranch. Those of you who struggle to get a well-deserved vacation, listen up. Even I have successfully used my smart device to work from a deer stand, duck blind, fishing boat and my cousin’s wedding. 

If you still feel ill-equipped to master your smartphone, find someone on the ranch to help you. Strong minds, more than a strong back, are becoming increasingly important in agriculture. Stay connected. Stay in the know. Stay profitable.

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Spell Check

Bob Milligan
St. Paul, MN
12/9/2015 09:20 AM

  Great article. My addition is that it is dangerous to lump people, products and profits together. Certainly smart technology is helpful in leading and coaching people; however, the necessity of having a great relationship with those people is as high or probably higher than before.

Kearney, NE
12/9/2015 07:43 AM

  Wow! One would think that with all this new, "smart" technology available we in Ag must be making money hand over fist! However, we are not,.... we still have the same exact problems plaguing Ag that we have had since modern agriculture began. So spare me the bullshit. This "tweet" is simply an advertisement presented as a story. As always, if technology was the solution, we would have no more problems.