Livestock Husbandry Goes Digital


FarmIT Offers 4-H and FAA Members Digital Records Management

One out of every seven adults in the U.S. are former 4-H members. 

Recognizing that the majority of a livestock husbandry projects occur in the pen or corral, we elected to initially build FarmIT as an iOS app.

Numbered ear tags are inefficient and cannot be efficiently attached to the digital record of a project animal.

We soon realized that FarmIT is a great solution not only for 4-H and FFA members, but also for ranchers and farmers with large livestock populations.

For the past century, 4-H clubs around the world have engaged youth to help them learn citizenship, leadership, responsibility, and life skills through experiential learning. The 4-H motto “to make the best better” and slogan of “learn by doing” are cornerstones of the organization’s mission.

While the organization is administered by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture within the United States Department of Agriculture, its focus is much more expansive, focusing on citizenship, healthy living, science, engineering, and technology programs. Yet, the approximately 90,000 4-H clubs in the U.S., comprised of nearly 6.5 million members, are often known for their ties to agricultural and animal husbandry.

Tedious, Time-Consuming Animal Husbandry Records Management

In the latter case, thousands of large livestock (cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats) are raised by 4-H youth annually. Records management for these animal husbandry projects are a tedious and time-consuming exercise for most 4-H members. Everything from acquisition information to varied costs are logged, calculated, and tracked with pen and paper. Even in instances where records management is digitized in the form of a database or spreadsheet program, no mining or analysis of the data is done to enable 4-H members to make more intelligent decisions regarding animal selection, feeding regimes, and vaccination and veterinary care.

Birth of FarmIT™

I know this quite well, because my daughter is a proud member of our local 4-H club and participates in animal husbandry projects. While she learned about food animal market yields and how to calculate them, along with other husbandry formulas, remembering these complex mathematical equations and applying them throughout the care and feeding of her livestock was difficult. This is what gave rise to the development of Reverbant Lab’s FarmIT™ solution.

Recognizing that the majority of a livestock husbandry project—not only by 4-H members but by Future Farmers of America (FFA) members—occurs in the pen or corral, we elected to build it as an iPhone app. Our first release (FarmIT 1.0) allowed for the calculation of carcass weights by multiplying the animal’s live weight with its associated dressing percentage (variable based on the type of animal).

From Birth to Market

Our next release (FarmIT 2.0) sought to provide 4-H and FAA members with the ability to track individual animals from birth to market. It starts with acquisition information such as weight, cost, and birth and acquisition dates.

During the husbandry lifecycle, users can track growth, weight gain, as well as costs associated with feed, veterinary care and medicine, harvesting, meat cutting, and processing. All of this data is integrated into a total cost to acquire, raise, and process the animal. We also tapped basic data mining and analytics to embed calculations reflecting the breakeven price per pound/kilogram for the animal.

Digital Ear Tagging

Our latest release (FarmIT 2.5) addresses the problems associated with animal identification. As many 4-H members involved in livestock husbandry share pens and corrals with other members or even with local ranchers, identification of each animal is critical. Numbered ear tags were inefficient and could not be attached to the digital record of the animal in FarmIT. In addition, use of non-digital numbered ear tags slows 4-H and FFA animal check-in and increases the potential for human error in registering each animal.

As a result, we extended the native FarmIT app to allow users to scan ear tags with barcodes or quick response (QR) codes using the built-in camera on their iPhones. This automatically creates a new record in FarmIT that can be edited and populated at the convenience of the user. An existing record can also be opened by simply scanning the barcode or QR code with the built-in iPhone camera.

Broader Use Cases for Ranchers and Farmers

We soon realized that FarmIT is a great solution not only for 4-H and FFA members, but also for ranchers and farmers with cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats. Specifically, FarmIT is a much more efficient option to numbered ear tags and manual records management and a less expensive alternative to EID readers and RFID-powered ear tags.

Whether you are a 4-H or FFA member with animal husbandry projects or a rancher or farmer seeking ways to make your operations more efficient and less expensive, FarmIT is a solution you should consider. Download the FarmIT app from the Apple iTunes store and transform how you track and manage your livestock today.