The weather has warmed to the mid-forties and there are only 18 cows in the calving field – easy to keep track of out the front window. Feeding takes only a couple of hours out of the day, and I am enjoying a little down-time.
Cowboys of yore are all envisioned with a pistol strapped to their hips. A century later, I also have a leather holster on my belt. Mine, however, holds a Palm “smartphone” rather than a Colt revolver.
The cellphone capabilities are limited out here on the ranch: text messages are fairly reliable; cell-calls often ring in but only get out when I’m over the mountain in the summer range. The biggest use for my smartphone here on the ranch is the Documents To Go Program: I have a couple dozen Word and Excel documents at my fingertips 24/7.
Top of the list are the “Accomplishments” and “Cattle” files. I keep a daily log in my Palm to remind me of how I have spent each day. And in my “Cattle” spreadsheet I currently have five tabs: nutrient requirements, culls, notes, calving roster, and inventory. Soon I will be adding “pasture moves”, as well as “weights” as I record them for calves and yearlings.
I have an “equipment” list that gives me model and serial numbers when I am buying parts. I have an “internet access” list with websites and passwords. There is an “acreage” spreadsheet that lays out all the fields by size and land classification, and a “labor” spreadsheet that automatically calculates withholding, Social Security, and Medicare taxes when I write a check to my help.
I can quickly tell you what the sale weights have been on my calves for the last ten years, how many bales and how many tons of hay were produced in each field, and how many gallons per acre of spray are put out by the boom sprayer, the jet sprayer, and the back-pack sprayer, as well as the calculations for 2,4-D, Round-up, and Tordon for each sprayer and for each weed.
There is a file that gives the criteria for Body Condition Scoring of cattle; there are notes for determining the stage of pregnancy; I can tell you the birthdates of all my children and grandchildren; my date book has reminder alarms; there are some 2000 contacts stored with snail-mail, phone numbers, and email addresses, as well as assorted notes. And all of these files sync quickly with my computer.
The amount of information that we use on a regular basis is incredible – my organic RAM is limited, and my aging hard drive is full. The overflow is stored in the “electronic brain” that I carry on my hip.
But life on a ranch is hard for microchips and touch-screens. Thus I have just ordered two new back-up units for my Palm. Fortunately, this model is now obsolete, and the smartphones that cost $250 two years ago are now available on eBay for $20 each - delivered. That’s less than it costs to make a trip to town....