Selecting a grazing app that works for you

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Today, there are numerous apps available to help producers in the field. From field identification for plants to record-keeping and grazing plans, there are many options to choose from for both iOS and Android systems, so how do you select the apps that will work best for you? 

When searching for apps, keep in mind that many search terms can refer to multiple topics. A good example of this is using “grazing” as a search term and having not only apps related to pasture management but also those for restaurant chains and a wide variety of games. 

If you are not finding an app relevant for your operation, think about using similar search terms to view a wider range of apps. For example, it helps to search for apps using multiple search terms such as “grazing,” “pasture management,” “herd,” “ranch” or “rangeland.” 

Specifying specific livestock species or using more specific language in searches can narrow the search. 

Uses

Think about what you will need to use the app for. Do you need a calculator for herbicide mixing? Or are you needing a pasture recordkeeping app? 

Some apps can be more comprehensive but may also be more difficult to navigate. Others can be simple field guides or calculators but may not include all of the features that you need. Watch for apps that function primarily as advertisements. 

Create a list of features that you need and want — if many of the features from your list are missing from the app, then search again for a better option. 

Things to consider

When reviewing apps, take a look at the location for where the app was developed. Some apps are developed specifically for conditions in the U.S. (or even specific states). 

Conditions found in Ohio are much different than, say, conditions in Florida, the United Kingdom or Kenya. Others can be more universally applied, and it won’t matter where it’s used. 

Also, take a look at customer reviews. Are comments being addressed and suggestions for improvements considered? Are bugs being fixed? 

Check when the latest update occurred. If there are a lot of negative comments since the last review, there may still be significant bugs with the app. If the last update was 10 years ago, that can send up a red flag. 

Look into space and memory requirements for the app and make sure your phone can support it without frequent crashes. Keep in mind that many GIS/mapping apps can be data-heavy and potentially take up a lot of space. 

Fees or free

Some apps are available to use for free, and some have a fee. There can be free or paid for versions of an app as well. 

Pay-to-play apps should have all of the features that you are looking for and should work well with few to no issues and have regular updates. Free versions of apps may be bogged down with ads. 

Determine the fee structure of the app, if there is one, and make sure it falls within your budget range. 

You can also check into free trial versions before making a purchase — apps that charge often have trial periods. If you don’t see an option for a free trial, it may be worthwhile contacting the developer or company that owns the app to see if you can get one. 

Any app you use should be intuitive. If you can’t figure out what all the app does or how it functions within three minutes, then it may not be worth keeping it on your phone. 

Other options

Avoid using apps as a crutch. For example, plant photo identification apps are great many times, but they can also be inaccurate — verify weed identifications with a good field guide. 

You also need to have a good understanding of pesticides without relying on an app — an app is no substitution for a pesticide label. 

If you can’t find an app that works for you but have a website that you enjoy using, many phones allow you to bookmark websites to your home screen, which can function similar to apps. Just keep in mind that they won’t work in areas with no cell service or Wi-Fi availability. 

To view a list of apps for grazing and pasture management, visit go.osu.edu/beefcattleapps. This list is primarily focused on beef cattle operations, but there are also general apps for plant identification and record-keeping that can apply to other livestock species. 

This is by no means a complete list of apps available — new apps frequently emerge on the market, and others can become outdated. Every situation and need is different, so it’s important to make a list of what features you need to help find the app that works for you. 

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Erika Lyon is the OSU Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources in Jefferson and Harrison counties. She can be reached at lyon.194@osu.edu or at 740-264-2212, x.203.

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