Got milk profits? Dairy app keeps track

PENN STATE (US) — A free mobile app helps dairy farmers with financial planning by tracking feed costs and income.

The DairyCents app, currently available on the Apple iPhone, helps farmers estimate income over feed cost per cow, a number that tells farmers how much money is left over to pay other expenses minus the feed costs. Another function compares feed prices in several locations across the country.

“Farmers are doers, they enjoy the physical work aspect of farming, but not always the financial side of the operations,” says Virginia Ishler, nutrient management specialist and dairy complex manager in animal science at Penn State. “Hopefully, this app makes this part a little easier.”

To use the income-over-feed function, farmers enter only a few pieces of information to help estimate the income a cow can produce compared to the cost of the feed: date, zip code, and estimated level of milk production based on three settings, 65, 75, and 85 pounds.


Screen captures of the DairyCents app. (Credit: Virginia Ishler)

“The income-over-feed cost is a good barometer for how their operation is doing,” Ishler says. “It gives farmers a feel for how much money will be left over at the end of the month to pay bills.”

The app uses average prices for alfalfa hay, milk, corn, and soybean meal and is based on diets developed by Ishler. Hay and milk prices are obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service. Corn and soybean meal prices are obtained from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Using the app, available at extension.psu.edu/dairycents, farmers can track price data on feeds, forages and commodities. It also allows farmers to enter the prices they are currently paying for feed, which can then be referenced by other farmers around the country. Eventually this function may help farmers find better prices for feed and give them more leverage to negotiate prices with current feed suppliers.

The team is planning a second round of development to make the app available on other platforms, such as the Android smart phone operating system.

Current market conditions influence problems and opportunities for farmers and weather conditions during one season can have a ripple effect for months. Both have hit farmers particularly hard the last few years, Ishler says.

“We have never seen this type of price variability. People can’t make a decision in a vacuum, so this app helps farmers by easily giving them information to help with long-term planning.”

The USDA-Risk Management Agency supported this work.

Source: Penn State