So what does a guy with a ranch, a young family, multiple commitments to his community and industry organizations, do in his spare time? Well, he creates an app to take care of his calving records of course.
Jake Meyer, with his family, operates a ranch in southern Alberta near Welling and has the only calving app on the world market developed by a Canadian rancher. Now that is Canadian innovation at its finest.
The way Meyer tells the story, last calving season while he was juggling his calving book and finding a pen, the book went into the mud. It wasn’t the first time. Irritation encouraged the thought that there must be a better way. There’s an app for everything. Isn’t that what they say? So back in the house Meyer went searching for a record-keeping app for his iPhone. Hmmmm… interesting, Meyer thought when he could not find one. He confesses it took a bit more research and discussion to convince the cattle boss (his wife, Tanya) this was a good idea to invest money in.
Meyer has a business background, so first thing he did was to work through a business plan. After about 30 pages he was convinced he had a great idea. Then he says the work began on all the practical aspects like design and coding and redesign and more thinking about how to make it all work. Meyer used his friend network as a sounding board. One friend helped him work through the necessary thinking on the coding this app was going to need. The practical decision was made that they would work with developers in India. Meyer says it took a while to find the company he was comfortable with and that took more than a few emails and phone calls.
“Sending that first cheque was a bit of a leap of faith, Meyer says. But all in all it was a very positive experience. We could not have done it if we would have paid North American programming prices.” One area he just could not work out with the app designer in India was the screen design. Then Meyer thought about a friend who was a fabrication draftsman with access to a 3D drafting program. A little bit of creative process and voila, the buttons on the app screen took on just the look Meyer had envisioned.
“And after a year or so… iCalve was born,” says Meyer. iCalve is easily accessible, just head to the iTunes app store and type in iCalve. (You won’t find it on the Apple App Store.) The first time you open it you will be asked if you want to back up your records to iCloud. If that’s your choice then the app will automatically back up to iCloud. Meyer says he prefers that to storing the records on the phone just in case you try washing your phone or somehow drop it in the north 40.
The home screen shows six major buttons; Calf Records, Doctor Records, Cull Cow List, Death Loss, Gestation Calendar and Export Records. Opening Calf Records shows all the information areas you would expect to see in a paper calving book. There’s space for each individual calf number, sex, weight, the cow number, calving ease and a space to write in any specific notes about the calf and its circumstances you might keep track of. There’s a spot for when the vet was out for pregnancy checking and for other information about your cow inventory. This information is recorded with the Tag ID for that animal. There’s also a Herd Data button that takes you to a screen where the format layout makes it easy to enter details such as when the bulls were turned in and when they were taken out.
Meyer says he thought for quite a while about the screen setup. He was envisioning how to set the screens up so it is easy to move back and forth. Another feature Meyer is finding very useful for his operation is the option to print off the records in a PDF format. When you print off the calving records you’ll find a space to put in the CCIA tag sticker. You can then photocopy those pages for a potential buyer.
Meyer launched the app for iPhone and iPad on iTunes Store last November. The cost is $9.99. Almost immediately he had buyers from the U.K. and the orders from Canada started to roll in. “We’re working on an Android version now,” says Meyer. There have already been questions about when that will be available. There seems to be a lot of cattlemen keen to try out new ways of managing their records!” Meyer believes this type of technology is just the tip of the iceberg. “As cattlemen think more about how to use new technology more apps of this type will show up making record-keeping easier and easier,” he says.