If you are the son/daughter/niece/nephew/friend of a livestock farmer, and you’re reading this, please share this article with them!
I know there are livestock farmers out there that are still farming like it’s 1955 as far as record keeping and selling animals and forming partnerships goes. You probably have modern tractors and equipment to take care of your pastures and crops, but for the other advances that internet technology and smart phones provide? Nah.
And you are missing out big time on opportunities. Ask your teen age/college age kids — they understand what I’m stating here. There are new ways to market, promote, and run your farm to reach many more customers, not just the ones that are within a 50 mile radius of your farm. I understand that rural areas were the last to get decent internet access, but it’s here now in at least a couple forms, so most farmers have no more excuses. It’s time for livestock farmers to catch up with the rest of other industries and utilize this technology in their farming businesses.
What exactly am I talking about? And why is now the time for you to start using available Internet resources? I will touch on three areas: marketing and sales, herd management, and connecting with other farms.
Marketing and Sales
Old marketing ways don’t work as well as they used to. Before the Internet disrupted everything, there were only phone books, radio/tv ads, newspaper/magazine ads, etc. All of these methods had limited reach — mostly local.
Now there are many more channels to use thanks to the Internet. Theres’s email marketing, websites, blogs, and social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. to not replace but enhance traditional marketing ways. At a minimum, every livestock farm should have a website. It’s the first thing people search for when searching for the livestock you raise and sell. So let’s just dive into some of the reasons why you need to begin embracing the Internet in your business.
- People will find you easier. Nearly all people are turning to the Internet to find businesses rather than using a phone book, and this certainly isn’t anything recent. But I have to state this because if your farm doesn’t have an Internet presence, I have to assume that you must not know this! Why else would you not have a website?? There may be lots of people in your community that would buy food from you, if they knew you were selling.
- Mobile phones. Just about everyone has a smart phone now, and they are the tool people use to look up just about anything. If you are not present with your own website or on other farm related websites, you’ve already lost.
- For sales, I am talking about social media marketing and using online auctions to buy and sell livestock. Because not too many people use the Yellow Pages anymore, but they will go to Facebook to check out your farm page. Or they will search Google for your website. The most successful livestock farms will use all the available channels to advertise or increase their livelihood, which depends on selling animals or animal products.
- You competition uses it. All businesses have competitors, even friendly competitors. Chances are your competitors are or soon will be jumping on board with these modern marketing techniques. More and more farmers are every day.
- FREE! There is no cost for the basics of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, emails, ad postings, etc. Of course some pay for premium services, but at a minimum, you should have a presence on social media and to do so is absolutely free. And to start your own blog or even begin posting like I am here on Medium, is free.
All farmers should agree that good record keeping is essential to a livestock farming business. Without it, you could be trying to remember dates of when you last dewormed or gave a vaccine. Or when you bred your animals and when to expect the babies to arrive, just to give a couple examples. If you sell breeding stock, many breeders are going to want the medical and breeding history of the animal of interest, among other things like photos and maybe a copy of its registration certificate. Records could be needed to other legal reasons as well. Therefore, it is important to keep records using some kind of method.
Many farmers I talk to use paper pads to keep records on their animals, just like it was done in the 1700s when it was the only way. There are a number of problems with this method. Here are some of the drawbacks to record keeping on paper pads:
- Fire — If there’s a fire, your records could be destroyed. This is the worst drawback to keeping records on paper. Loss of all records would be very devastating to a farm.
- Record Retrieval — After accumulation of multiple notepads filled with records, it could take some time to go back and lookup an animal’s records.
- Redundancy of transcribing records — If someone wants to buy one of your animals and they want its records, you will have to go back and find them those records. Then, if you want mailing by USPS, then you could maybe make copies of the records, depending on whether you kept records by individual animal or by herd as a whole (better for it to be by the animal, but that does take more time.) and send them in the mail. Or if by email, you will want it in electronic format, which could mean you are typing that information in rather than including your entire herd’s records, which would be confusing to the prospective buyer.
- Records are not always with you unless you take all the notepads with you— At a show or sale for instance, it might come in handy to have access to herd records for a variety of reasons (veterinary emergency, potential sale, etc.).
There are better options available to use than notepads. Some of those options are software programs, mobile apps, or using something not too sophisticated like Excel. In my opinion all of these options are better than using paper, but some of these options are much better than others.
Connecting with Other Farms
Livestock farmers have traditionally been well connected locally through clubs such as The Rotary Club and stockyard auctions. Farmers also network with other farmers through regional and national livestock shows and sales events. Internet technology helped make networking a little easier when farmers started creating their own websites. But what about connecting distantly more often with other livestock producers? Creating and maintaining a network of farmers could open up limitless possibilities for you, perhaps opportunities you have never really thought about. Using these platforms will also help you connect with more farms locally.
Modern technology has made sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram possible, and these sites are very good with helping farmers connect to others.
Why Do I Care About This?
Like many of those farmers that should read this article, I am also a livestock farmer. I see it in my own small town — so many farmers are not embracing internet technology in their farming operations. This is so crazy! It might be true that old habits die hard, but when they are obsolete, they should die quickly. But in fact, you do not have to end those habits — just supplement with some new ones that will enhance your farming experience. The tools are available now, so why not start using them?
Secondly, I am the CEO of LivestockCity, Inc., based in Virginia. As a farmer, I had wished that something like LivestockCity already existed. A site where I could connect with other farmers, manage my herd records in the cloud, quickly find and purchase great animals for sale, and of course, sell my animals, wool, yarns, etc. I was that guy using notepads to keep records and redundantly sending out emails with information and photos to prospective buyers, only to never hear from them again. I had farmers all around me but didn’t know them. “A social network for farmers would be great!”, I thought. A site like LivestockCity did not exist, so I built it for me, and I built it for all livestock owners.