Collecting Data with a Palm Device
One of the biggest challenges to an effective production record
system is data collection and the timely availability of the analysis
of that data. User of CowCalf5 and other production record systems
have struggled for years trying to get the data entered in to
the computer in a timely matter so that management decisions could
For most people, if they could get the data input within a few
weeks of collecting it, it was an accomplishment. The problem
is that even a few weeks is too long, when decisions have to be
made the same day in many cases.
Early versions of CowCalf created a Chute Side program that would
run on a notebook computer for field data entry. This was effective
in getting the data input into the computer for timely decisions,
but had its draw backs. Primarily, the problem was that notebooks
are quite expensive, and most ranchers do not want to take an
expensive computer into an environment where it could be damaged
easily. Secondly, the screen on a notebook is nearly impossible
to see in bright sunlight. These issues made using a notebook
unpractical for most operations.
The Palm Pilot
In the late 1990's, a new handheld computing device was invented
called a Palm Pilot. The nice thing about it was that it was small,
fairly inexpensive, designed to work outdoors, ran for days on
a single charge, and was instant on/instant off. Since it is a
computer, it can be programmed just like a computer. One of the
best features of the palm pilot is that it doesn't require a keyboard,
simply writing on the screen enters data into the device. So very
little training is needed to utilize the device.
So we designed a program for the Palm that allowed you to download
(Syncronize) your data to the device, take it to the field, edit
or enter new data, then upload (Syncronize) the data back into
The CowCalf Palm program we wrote is designed to minimize the
amount of writing needed to enter a record. Many fields entered
by simply tapping (clicking) on the screen. Other field have pop-up
calendars or dropdown menu to simplify data imput. Our studies
have shown that entering data on a palm pilot doesn't take any
more time that writing the data in a cavling book.
Once data has been updated, simply hotsyncing the device with
your computer places all the data on that computer. Then the user
starts up the CowCalf program on the PC, and a message is display
telling them how many records were updated on the palm, and ask
if they would like to incorporate these in their record system.
Since the computer placed the most current data on the palm,
the palm is a super tool when it comes to managing the herd real
time. Fields like age, disposal info, lifetime produciton parameters,
last calfs weaning weights, and previous breeding are available
when the animal is caught. So management decisions can be done
while you are working the animal.
Using a palm to collect data in the field allows summaries and
reports to generated within minutes of the last animal being worked.
This is more valuable since the activities are still fresh in
The Palm CowCalf software in included free with the purchase
of the CowCalf5 program. The program works on nearly any palm
pilot (new or old) that has at least 8 Meg of Ram.