The need for speed: Computers aid information management

By Dave Natzke

Whether checking the day’s milk futures prices to make marketing decisions, visiting a website to learn more about a new dairy technology, or posting a comment on Facebook to help educate consumers, the computer continues to grow as a dairy management tool.

While a June 2009 USDA survey of 31,500 ag producers shows the percentage of all dairy operations using computers hasn’t changed much in four years, more dairy producers in higher annual income levels are using computers to manage their businesses, and they’re opting for higher-speed Internet connections.

Dairy details

About  60% of U.S. dairy operations have computer access, 57% own or lease a computer, 45% use computers for farm business, and 52% have Internet access. While on par with producers of livestock and crops, dairy producers continue to lag grain and cotton producers in overall computer access and use.

But dairy producers generating $250,000 or more in sales and government payments are much more likely to utilize computers (Table 1), and are among the leaders in embracing that technology among all U.S. farm operators.

Dairy producers’ need for speed on the “information highway” was evident is USDA’s latest report. In 2009, “dial-up” (32%) was still the leading means of Internet access for dairy producers, but digital subscriber line (DSL) access (31%) is catching up. (Table 2). Wireless (12%), cable (11%), and satellite (11%) Internet access also posted gains in the past two years. Among dairies with sales and government payments of $250,000 or more, DSL access was the leading method (33%) in 2009. Just four years ago, dial-up was used by 76% of all dairy producers.

Logging on

Dairy producer computer use is impacting the relationship between DairyBusiness Communications and dairy producers. Our staff tracks the number of “hits” or visits to our websites. For the May-July 2009 period:

www.dairybusiness.com, which features daily news updates from Dairy Profit Weekly, as well as business/managemnt articles and links to electronic versions of Western DairyBusiness and Eastern DairyBusiness, averaged more than 107,000 hits per month, or more than 3,500 hits per day. That’s more than triple the average number of daily hits in 2008.

HolsteinWorld (www.holsteinworld.com) averaged nearly 160,000 hits per month, or more than 5,000 hits per day.

All-Breeds Access (www.allbreedaccess.com) averaged nearly 63,000 hits per month, or more than 2,000 hits per day.

• DairyLine Radio (http://dairyline.com) averaged more than 67,000 hits per month, or more than 2,100 hits per day.

The impact goes further, improving the interaction between editors and readers. DairyLine Radio (http://dairyline.com) began conducting surveys on dairy-related issues. More than 500 producers provided opinions and comments on a survey regarding a mandatory national supply management program. (About 50% favored it; 38% didn’t; and 12% weren’t sure.)

To view the full USDA report, “farm Computer Usage and Ownership – August 2009,” visit http://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/current/FarmComp/FarmComp-08-14-2009.pdf.

Computer WEB chart

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