Alvord, Iowa, cattle feed yard, Bluetooth

Ross Mogler, feedyard manager at Mogler Farms near Alvord, Iowa, checks the display of an on-board iPad. A Performance Beef app works with the scale unit to his right to record feed weights and track costs for the feedyard.

ALVORD, Iowa -- A new feedlot management system for the cattle yard at Mogler Farms is saving time and providing managers with useful data at their fingertips.

This spring, the rural Alvord, Iowa farm upgraded to a new Scale-Tec hardware system in its feed trucks that works with the Performance Beef app from Performance Livestock Analytics to track everything from how much feed is being delivered at each pen to what the real-time breakeven price is on each group of cattle.

It helps the operation run more efficiently, just knowing the numbers, said Ross Mogler, who manages the feedyards. He gets a daily report on what’s loaded and delivered to each pen.

It used to be quite a process to record information on feed rations and delivery data at Mogler Farms – even after upgrading from hand-written records eight years ago. An automated system recorded weights, but the sensors had to be within range, and so the operation relied on a system of radio boosters.

Then, the information had to be saved on a USB jump drive and entered into a program in the office in order to be analyzed. It used to be Angie Metzger’s job to drive around collecting USB storage devices from the feed trucks and uploading the data for monthly reports. Now, with Performance Beef and Scale-Tec’s POINT display, it arrives right on her computer in real time. It’s freed up her schedule for other tasks.

Now anyone in the feed truck has all of the information with them at all times through the Performance Beef app on the on-board iPads. Mogler can access it from his phone, and he appreciates that he was able to make adjustments remotely while on vacation. He spends a lot less time answering questions from his workers because they all have the data at their fingertips.

The Scale-Tec unit sits in the cab by the driver’s seat, but the app works in the background to feed data to the Performance Beef app.

“You barely realize that they’re there,” Mogler said.

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The programs keep a running history of what each pen of cattle has been fed by the day, which allows producers to instantly calculate costs and benchmark performance.

“Before, everything was a delayed response,” Mogler said. “We were constantly looking in the rearview mirror.”

The new system allows them to plan ahead and see results. When weather warmed to highs near 80s in the week before Easter, the Moglers planned for it by gradually cutting back on feed rations. Cattle need to eat less when it’s warm to maintain their body temperature, but a sudden change can upset the gut. The Performance Beef app helped them prepare a gradual change in their diet.

The POINT scale display automatically connects weight data to the Performance Beef system. Numerous other data points, such as medication costs and bedding, are then applied. Ultimately, every pound of feed delivered and every dollar spent is factored in to finding a break-even point and making selling decisions.

It’s been less than two months since Mogler Farms upgraded its feed management system. Mogler was expecting a rocky period and a learning curve as workers adjusted to using iPads. They were nervous about learning something new, he said, but once he trained them they caught right on.

“It’s very user friendly,” he said.

Now, his feedyard workers have a friendly competition over accuracy. They see who can get closest to delivering 100 percent of the feed they’ve loaded – which can be a challenge on a windy day. The numbers are pretty high, Mogler said.

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