By Karen Trebilcock

Dunedin Airport 50:50 sharemilker Hamish Jenkins is “pretty impressed” with the Silver Fern Farms Calf Booking app.

Before it was a phone call or a text to make sure animals were collected each day during calving, but the app makes it much simpler, he says.

On his phone, the app reminds him to book in animals and records how many animals have been collected.

“It can be on my phone or the calf rearer’s phone, it doesn’t matter. Just whoever is doing the job that season.”

Milking 550 cows, he’s used it for the past season and wouldn’t now want to do it any other way. Silver Fern Farms lower South Island store stock manager Garth “Tussock” Mitchell says calves can be booked four days in advance, when they’re born, and confirmed closer to pickup which gives the processing sites notice of what to expect. Or they can be booked the morning of pickup.

For Hamish, who farms smack in the middle between Silver Fern Farm plants at Waitane, near Gore, and Pareora, near Timaru, trucks don’t have to double back for missed animals and the trip for calves is quicker.

As well, the time from the last feed to arrival at the plant is recorded with a greater emphasis on animal welfare.

One of three finalists in the technology section of the Beef + Lamb New Zealand Awards, with the winner due to be announced in September, the app was first used in 2021 in the south proving its worth in Covid lockdowns. Now it’s nationwide with about 95% of South Island Silver Fern Farm calf suppliers and 28% of North Island calf suppliers using it last spring. In 2022 it will be the primary booking tool for both islands.

“As part of our overall transformation and technology journey, our internal digital team worked with our partners Datacom through the last few months of 2020 to map, scope and design it,” Silver Fern Farm’s chief supply chain officer Dan Boulton says.

In the past, North Island farmers put out a flag at their gate to show they had animals for collection.

“While the app may provide some cost savings in reduced road miles for transporters as they no longer have to drive around looking for flags, the real benefits will come in ways that can’t be measured in dollars.

“It has greatly reduced risk around animal welfare, missed bookings and plant issues caused by poor visibility on processing numbers.

“The brief was to make the app very simple so it could be used by anyone in the farm team, including those for whom English is a second language.”