The Noble Research Institute provides producers with numerous free calculators online to help determine a variety of production and enterprise costs. These include calculating hay waste, inputs required to change a cow's body condition score and how to evaluate pecan trees. While these tools are very helpful, a limiting factor has always been mobile accessibility. Until recently, the format did not make them accessible on mobile devices. In August, a free application called "Ag Tools" was made available for both iOS and Android devices to provide the much-needed mobile functionality that the website simply could not deliver. You can download "Ag Tools" from the App Store and Google Play.
While not all of the 38 calculators from the website are currently available in the app, those that most producers would use on a day-to-day basis are represented, including body condition score change, breeding season, calving season, frame score, lime application, pond fish stocking, supplement conversion (cost of gain) and value of gain. While these eight may not currently fit every producer's needs, more calculators will be added in the future to make it even more useful in the field for a much broader audience.
Users will find the design and functionality of the app very appealing. I found no problem navigating through the menu or understanding what I was viewing. Each calculator has a brief description under the title, making it easy to know exactly what information would be provided. Once a calculator is selected, users are asked to enter basic information. For example, in the value of gain calculator, enter purchase weight and cost per hundredweight as well as sell values. Next, the tool calculates the gain in pounds of the animal, the appropriate profit/loss in amount per head, the value of gain and rollback, or price slide. Once a producer knows the value of gain, the supplement conversion calculator can generate the cost of gain for that scenario once feed consumption, average daily gain and feed cost is entered. Knowing those two economic values (value of gain and cost of gain) is vital when deciding whether or not to retain ownership of calves into the stocker-phase. Further information related to retaining ownership and cost/value of gain can be found at Determining Cost of Gain and Retaining Ownership - Is It For You?.
The frame score calculator is a great way to project and predict an animal's mature weight, slaughter weight and assign a frame score value. Another calculator producers will appreciate having is the body condition score (BCS) change calculator. Users are asked to input an animal's current BCS, the desired BCS, and a desired start and end date. The tool generates the total amount of days the animal has to gain or lose the cover requested, and what the required average daily gain (ADG) is necessary to achieve the producer's goals for that animal. This information is irreplaceable when calculating performance values for cattle moving into the correct BCS score for breeding, calving or any stage of the production cycle for that matter.
By making information more accessible and on-demand to producers, more informed decisions can be made faster and with greater confidence. While the app does many great things, additional functionality through the addition of more calculators will only improve this tool. In my opinion, future revisions could also list basic contact information so further assistance can be reached if needed. Additional resources, such as photos, an event calendar or links to current publications may be beneficial to users of the app. In today's fast-paced, data-driven world, accessibility to reliable information and tools is a necessity. The Ag Tools app delivers the information producers need when they need it, and it is a must-have for any land steward, farmer or rancher.
- Simple and easy-to-use format
- Concise calculator descriptions
- Instructions readily available to assist the user input data
- More calculators need to be and will be made available in future updates to the app
- No contact information provided for additional assistance
- Possibility for additional resources