Before purchasing a new ag technology, put the technology to the test and know it’s potential impact on you and your operation.


This article was also published in Drovers, FeedLot Magazine and Angus Beef Bulletin


Swapping the  familiar pencil and notebook record-keeping system for a digital agriculture technology might feel intimidating. But due to increasingly tight margins, expensive inputs and overwhelming time demands, technology may offer a way to stay profitable.

Making technology decisions 

Tom Field, director of the Engler Agribusiness Entrepreneurship Program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, believes two important factors are foremost in technology decisions, aside from cost.

“First, since so much diversity in marketing methods of size and scale exist, (the technology) must provide data and information a producer can turn into decision-making tools,” Field says. “If it checks this box, I’d suggest taking a hard look.”

Some technologies offer data but not data that can be easily used to make decisions on. If data doesn't translate into actionable insights, it's likely not right for an operation.

“Second, does a technology deliver market access due to improved and more detailed information?” Field says. “If it opens the door to an interesting supply chain opportunity for higher premiums or increased average prices, it may have the margins to validate the choice to bring on a new layer of management and data collection.”

How the pieces fit together

New technology fitting these criteria must still make a positive difference on farm. Goals, management, labor and time should all be considered.

“Ultimately, a fit is determined by profit,” Field says. “If it positively affects my break-even, I need to seriously consider it. Admittedly, potential profit is hard to establish early on.”

Next, a technology’s ability to simplify or automate manual labor by simplifying or automating a multi-step paper process or removing repetitive manual data entries could add value. 

“Time and frustration levels are major players,” Field says. “If we can complete one step instead of three, it makes my team’s lives better. It’s likely not immediate for return on investment, but there's something to be said for the value of stress reduction and added efficiency.” 

Key questions to ask

Field recommends producers approach technology providers with three key questions:

  • Can you demonstrate to my satisfaction that it works?
  • Is your technology better than what I'm using now and why?
  • Will you outline the increased profitability and improved efficiency timeline?

Once you’re satisfied with the answers, Field suggests looking to trusted sources, including consultants, friends or peers with knowledge, expertise or experience.


Support and usability tied to success

Field stresses the importance of ease of use and responsive support.

“If it's not user-friendly, I'm not interested,” he says. “A program requiring a ton of support or adding a boatload of complexity to an already complex environment isn’t the answer. As Einstein said, ‘Make things as simple as possible but no simpler’.”

Technology also must work without extra hours dedicated to refinement or solving problems. 

“The frustrations of busy, time-constrained owners will happen quickly,” he warns. “If I need to invest extra time I don't have, it won’t be successful.” 

Practical concerns

Karl Fox, Iowa custom cattle feeder outlines three honest questions to consider before investing:: 

  • Do I have the cash available?
  • Does it make tasks easier? 
  • Will it help me identify ways to make better decisions?

Fox was one of the original adopters of Performance Beef, a cattle management software. When reviewing available options, he was spending numerous hours per month invoicing up to 20 pens to six different customers. 

“I decided on Performance Beef because it helped me do a better job of tracking and managing my numbers, improving my health records, and fine-tuning how I manage my cattle on an individual basis,” Fox says. “As we’re primarily grid sellers, it provides better information to predict harvest dates, maximize revenue per animal and avoid penalties.”

Another key factor was that company’s personnel proactively kickstarted his installation and onboarding process, yielding almost immediate results.

“The right technology will quickly confirm that we can't afford not to have it,” he says. “Once we discover a technology or practice works with noticeable improvement in a short time, demonstrates a reduction in mistakes and quickly covers costs, it's an obvious choice.”

Field agrees. Technology’s ability to help reduce or eliminate repetitive and redundant tasks allows people to spend more time on other priorities. 

“If it's accurate, works quickly, reduces labor, demonstrates a verifiable ROI, makes for better decision-making and takes away aggravation, give it serious consideration,” Field says.

The first step in evaluating new technology is talking to peers, researching online or testing a product. Hear from customers or try a self-guided demo of Performance Beef to learn more.



Our digital demo walks you through popular functions in our app, helping you visualize how it can easily become part of your day-to-day tasks.