Getting the Most out of Technology as a Tool for Beef Farm Management

Tech/Toys and Tools are Fun - But Management Still Drives the Bus!

It may just be that I am getting older (which I am), but it seems every time you turn around there is some new tech break-through that is going to revolutionize the industry! However, it still takes management to decide how and when - or IF - those technological breakthroughs will be of benefit to your operation.

This line of thought all started on a farm call up in Renfrew where we were discussing a "new" pasture mineral with garlic in it that is purported to help keep flies at bay. In fact, it was the sales rep/farmer that made the comment "but management drives the bus". As with so many things, just buying the "new and improved" whatever doesn't guarantee it helps the operation. For example, even if the purchased mineral is just dumped out and allowed to harden (poor management), consumption won't be what it is supposed to be and if that happens the product can't work as it is supposed to!

This same example carries on in many forms in our cow herds. Through bull testing we proved over the years that many sires had the potential to sire calves that gained 4-5 lbs/day, yet feedlots have struggled to have pen close-outs that average much better than 2.5-2.8 lbs/day. The other mitigating factor in here is that the bull is only half the calves' genetics and most cows are selected for other factors rather than fast gain/growth…then once the calves are in the feedlot the ration and feeding regime are also of great importance…the old adage still applies "genetics determine what the cattle CAN do …but feed will determine or dictate what they actually do". So you may buy the best but it will still take your management to get the best out of it!

Another tech device that got a lot of press this spring was a phone app to tell you if a cow or heifer was calving. If your parent or grandparent were in the business, I can only imagine what their response would be if you told them your phone was telling you about a calving! I would image that "what ever happened to your eyes and stockmanship/animal behaviour skills" would be an expected response! However, even if the phone tells you that an animal is calving, what good does that do unless you know she is in a clean-calving pen (which would be your prior management of the situation)?

Grazing is another area that has seen great advances in technology. For example, we now have better energizers, solar water pumps, wire reels, step-in fence posts, and tumble wheels. Yet all of these only help if you are watching and managing the grass availability for the stock. So once more, "management drives the bus."

Animal behaviour and handling (always dear to my heart!) is another example of how management trumps any new technology in itself! The most expensive and highest tech facilities can still create handling wrecks or disasters if the incorrect management and pressure are applied to the cattle. On the other hand, good stockman with good handling management can get a lot of cattle worked through some less-than-ideal facilities.

So the next time someone wants to sell you the "newest" and "coolest" toy or gadget that is going to revolutionize your operation, step back and consider how it might work in your set-up and what management skills it will need to get your money's worth out of it!

Because the bottom line will always be: Tech Toys and Tools are fun…

But Management Still Drives the Bus!!!


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