MEADVILLE, Pa. (AP) — Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences has developed a free iPhone application to help dairy farmers track their costs and better project the income they'll receive from the milk their cows produce.
The DairyCents app is available for free at http://extension.psu.edu/dairycents and can also help farmers track the price of feeds, forages and commodities.
But the app's main function is to help farmers estimate their income over and above the cost of feeding each cow, the Meadville Tribune reported Tuesday (http://bit.ly/RXPaZ5 ).
The application uses dietary data developed by Virginia Ishler, a nutrient management specialist and dairy complex manager with the university.
"Farmers are doers. They enjoy the physical work aspect of farming but not always the financial side of the operations," Ishler said. "We hope this app makes this part a little easier."
The income-over-feed-cost function — which tells farmers how much revenue each cow generates once the cost of feeding the animal is deducted — requires only a few pieces of information. Farmers must input the date, zip code and estimated level of milk production.
The app determines how much it will cost to feed each cow by using average prices for alfalfa hay, corn, soybean meal, and milk and optimal diets devised by Ishler. The program gets its milk and hay prices from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and corn and soybean meal prices from the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.
DairyCents also lets farmers record the prices they're paying for feed, which other farmers around the country can reference. That information could eventually help farmers shop around for better feed prices and give them more leverage to negotiate with their suppliers.
Penn State is working to make DairyCents available on other platforms, including Android smart phones.
Ishler said farmers need more help with financial planning because weather and price volatility have made that more difficult in recent years.
"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," Ishler said.
Information from: The Meadville Tribune, http://www.meadvilletribune.com