The devil is in the details. Which variety or hybrid did we plant? Which field was it in? Which day was it planted? Which herbicides were used? Which nutrients were applied? Which day was that? And those details are just a few and just for field operations. And don't forget about equipment maintenance, marketing, accounting and everything in between. But, there is a way to manage that devil: computer software.
Mike Greenough, Lake Crystal, MN, has been using farm management software for eight years,and appreciates what it's done for his farm.
“It's made my operation more efficient by giving me an easy way to deal with general accounting and allows me to analyze enterprise units of the farm and planting and harvesting data all in one place,” he says. “It's easy to use and is compatible with other vendors, such as our John Deere GreenStar system.”
Paul Gorman, farm business management instructor at South Central College, Mankato, MN, has used many different farm management softwares, and thinks they are an important piece to every farm operation.
“Probably 90% of the farm population in this area (southern Minnesota) is keeping cash income and expense records, but those don't track grain, livestock or input inventories; that's all missing in most farm computer records,” Gorman says. “People may have accurate checkbook and loan information, but this whole inventory piece — what could be $2 million worth of livestock or grain — is where the software offers the power to integrate.”
Gorman's preferred software is Farm Works.
“The strength of Farm Works is that it has a process where the cost and quantities of things used on a specific field can be allocated and then show up in the farm report,” he says. “You get a nice report showing all overheads. It has everything you need.”
Trying to sift through all the different programs and details of each piece of software can be overwhelming. Corn & Soybean Digest has selected a few different farm management software options to highlight.
Farm Works offers software to use on your desktop/laptop, as well as software for use in the field on handheld devices. With over 30,000 worldwide users, the software provides fully supported, easy-to-use, innovative solutions for the office and field. There are several pieces you can purchase to encompass all farming operations.
FarmLogic is a Web-based software system. Users can store records as they work in the field using FarmPAD software on a handheld computer, which includes GPS. For ease of use, icons and a touch-screen are featured. FarmLogic plans to add financial capabilities in the coming months.
The Farm Files software, crops version, tracks harvest data, crops, chemicals, fertilizer, planting, tillage, contracts, elevator inventory, expenses, net income, custom trucking and field mapping for your farm. Farm Files Crops allows you to track important information on your farm such as the previous crop, condition of the field when planted, planting depth, planting population, rates, etc. You can also generate farm recordkeeping reports.
SST Summit Plus! is a desktop software program for growers and agricultural service providers. It can be used for mapping, crop planning, budgeting, recordkeeping and reporting. SST also offers a handheld unit.
FINPACK is a financial planning and analysis software that has been used by more than 100,000 farmers and ranchers during the past 10 years.
“FINPACK helps producers analyze their financial situation and project cash flows for the future,” says Dale Nordquist, associate director, University of Minnesota Center For Farm Financial Management. “It is not an accounting system, but it helps producers put their accounting records to work by creating and maintaining balance sheets, financial trends, cash-flow plans and long-range plans. The tools within FINPACK help producers evaluate their financial situation, explore alternatives and make informed decisions about the future direction of their farms.”
Paul Gorman, farm business management instructor at South Central College, Mankato, MN, encourages operators to use FINPACK.
“It's a suite of applications that allows you to plot all revenues by month and expenses by month then project whether farm operating loan will get paid down that month,” he says.
“Finpack also projects grain inventories and livestock and feed inventories. The historic database allows operators to look at the last four years of data to get average corn yield to budget for the year ahead. There's a lot of power in there,” he says.
Cost for FINPACK is $395 for a personal version that doesn't expire. For more information, go to www.finpack.org.