Take a page from consumer technology buying savvy when purchasing new technology for your dairy or farming operation, recommends Jeff Bewley, Extension dairy specialist with the University of Kentucky.
After all, you’re making a huge investment, sometimes in the six figures, and you should demand answers before signing the purchase agreement.
- First and foremost, what are the rates of false positives (sensitivity) and false negatives (specificity) of the condition of interest. In other words, if an activity monitor indicates a cow is in heat, what percent of the time is the cow truly in heat? And what percent of cows are missed?
- What percent of devices fail per year? Any reputable company should be willing and able to tell you how durable their products are.
- What is the warranty on the product?
- What is the upgrade policy? If you just purchased a 2.0 version of the product and a 3.0 version is released next month, how much will it cost to upgrade?
- What is the full cost of the product, including hardware, software, devices, maintenance and data storage?
- Will the company provide a list of existing users you can talk with?
“Service is key,” says Bewley, “and can be more important that the gadget itself.”
If your activity monitoring and heat detection equipment is struck by lightning, you need immediate help in getting it restored. Waiting days, sometimes weeks, for parts or new devices can leave your breeding program in shambles.
Bewley and his colleagues have developed a dashboard analysis tool that allows users to compare up to three different heat detection technologies. Users plug in farm information, start-up and other costs plus heat detection rates of the devices.
The dashboard then calculates which device might be more cost effective for the dairy. It calculates net present value of each device along with number of years to break-even.
You can access the dashboard here.