Calving goes digital

FAULKTON, S.D. -- Ellen Schlechter, a junior at Faulkton (S.D.) High School, stays busy, not only by working on her family's farm, but also as the creator of "The Calving Book." Instead of worrying about where the calving book is and who last had...

Faulkton (S.D.) High School junior Ellen Schlechter developed “The Calving Book” app to keep digital records of calving data on her family’s farm. Erin Wicker /Special to Agweek

FAULKTON, S.D. - Ellen Schlechter, a junior at Faulkton (S.D.) High School, stays busy, not only by working on her family’s farm, but also as the creator of “The Calving Book.” Instead of worrying about where the calving book is and who last had it, the app stores all the same information on a smartphone.
“On our own farm, we had a need for it,” Schlechter says. “With six guys working and using records, the question was always, ‘where’s the calving book?’”
At her farm, they wanted something that could separate calves and sync to multiple devices, which none of the existing programs did. Schlechter describes the app as a “make-it- happen” situation.
“The Calving Book” app is useable on Apple and Android smartphones and helps farmers keep track of records, including calf identification, birth weight, gender, birth date and more. Since launching the app, Schlechter has noticed a couple of other similar apps on the market.
The idea first came about in January 2014, but was initially dismissed based on the time it would take and the difficulty of learning code. But in July, Schlechter found an ad for an online platform that allowed customized app development and has since picked up code along the way.
Development began in July 2014 and the app was on the market for users by November 2014.
“Things really took off this year,” Schlechter says.
Sal Roseland, a farmer from Seneca, S.D., has been using the app with his business for the past couple years.
“Sal Roseland has helped out a lot,” Schlechter says. “He would call or text for fixes and give great feedback.”
Roseland says the app has helped manage his cattle herd on the go.
“The app benefited me because of the convenience of having records in the palm of my hand,” he says. “Having it with you in the pasture really speeds up the process.”
Roseland says the app was incredibly useful in situations, such as when calves go missing, or when a buyer is interested in knowing vaccinations and shot records. He also says it is user-friendly and easily exports records to email.
There are three versions of the app currently available. The first two versions were offered beginning in November 2014. “The Calving Book” Lite is a free version of the app, with less features than other versions, and is designed to give customers an overview of the app to see if they like it. “The Calving Book Pro” is sold for $19.99, and offers more features, such as the option to keep separate books, a search bar, alerts, ability to export books and more. “The Calving Book Plus” is the newest version, which was released in February. Plus tracks breeding, pregnancy-checking and weaning records. Additionally, this version works mostly offline.
A total of 6,400 accounts have been created with “The Calving Book.” While the majority of users are located in the U.S. or Canada, downloads have occurred throughout the world.
“It’s kind of a full-time job,” Schlechter says. “I’m lucky, because with school, I am able take dual credit, which gives me a little more time.”
Her days typically go from school to working on the farm to working on the app. On average, she currently spends four to five hours a day working on the app.
While she does all the work for the app herself, she hired a developer to provide the export function on the app. She has also added her cousin, Xavier Schlechter, as a business partner to handle the large amount of sales calls and to promote the app at the stock show this past year.
“My family has been so supportive through it all,” Schlechter says. “It’s great to live on a farm where we all use the app daily and know what needs to be changed. My family is good about giving feedback.”
Feedback Schlechter receives varies. She is frequently contacted by users interested in learning more about how to use it. The website is also completely created and maintained by Schlechter, and has received 15,551 views to date.
She works to develop and update the app continuously. Updates come with bug fixes as necessary and also based on customer feedback. Schlechter says she keeps a master list, and aims to knock a few items off with each update.
“In the future, I intend on making it faster and upgrading the offline functions,” Schlechter says. “I’ve also gotten requests to make it available on e-readers, and am looking into that.”
Schlechter’s plans after high school involve pursuing a business related degree, with a possible computer science minor.
“I really like the technology industry, and would like to stay close to that line of work,” Schlechter says.
While she has faced challenges, such as not knowing code when developing the app, overall it has been a worthwhile experience.
“When customers email me and say, ‘hey, this is great’ and thank me, it’s a great feeling,” she says. “That’s the most rewarding part.”

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