Young farmers win award for designing cattle management app
Young farmers turned app designers from Wick High School, Caithness, have seen a farm management app they created themselves launched on the market.
John, Keiran and Ryan came up with the idea because they knew first-hand how hard it is for farmers to keep tabs on their cows' health records.
The Cattle Manager app will help users track and manage livestock information.
The Wick pupils won two out of seven prizes in a student competition for apps to solve real problems.
The other team from Wick High who attended the official launch in London, run by Apps for Good, were Caitlin, Beth, Rebekah and Jeri, who designed an app to help dog owners care better for their pets.
The winners have had their apps built professionally and the finished items are now available on app stores.
Our team of School Reporters at Wick High School have been researching modern farming methods and animal rights issues.
We think the cattle farming app, designed by pupils at our school, shows that young farmers are deeply concerned with animal welfare and making sure their cattle are reared in a healthy, happy way.
We asked John to explain how the app can benefit the animals as well as the community.
Q - How do you feel about the award?
A - We never thought we would get as far as we've got. This is the first year Wick High School did it and we got this far thanks to our computer teacher, Mr Aitken.
Q - How would you describe the type of farming we saw in your video?
A - Just general beef and dairy, your average UK farm. We have maybe 300 beef and maybe 100 dairy, mainly Friesians but we also have bought in cattle that are mixed breeds.
Q - Why is it important to be able to keep track of the cattle?
A - By law you have to keep track of the cattle because if you don't you get a heavy fine. You need to keep track of what sort of animals are going into the food chain and how healthy they are.
Q - What sort of records do you keep and how long did it take you before the app?
A - With the past system you had paper floating around the place, but with our app the information is on hand the whole time when you need it. It keeps track of vaccinations, the dam and sire of every cow, the number of calves a cow has had, its age and all its import and export details.
We keep the cattle's records on paper in a cupboard in our house. You keep this until the day the cow goes off for slaughter or sale or whatever.
Each cow has two different records - its passport and its vaccination record. The British Cattle Movement Service (BCMS) keeps all this information online.
We hope that in future we can put paperwork out of it totally and just have the information on an app, whenever you need it, and save running about the place.
Q - You have been trying this app at the farm. What difference has it made?
A - It's made it a good bit easier to keep track. Paper is too easily lost. The information is not so easily lost from the app.
The app also gives you reminders of what injections are due. It saves you having to look at the paper. It just comes up as a notification on the top of your phone. It just beeps at you and tells you you've got to give something an injection that day.
Q - How do you think this app can benefit cattle? How does it help animal welfare?
A - It tells you when a beast needs a vaccination. You've not got to go and look it up yourself. It gives you a notification to make sure it gets done on time, so that they don't fall ill.
Q - Highland schools were unaffected by the horsemeat scandal but not everyone was so lucky. Can an app like this be useful in maintaining food chain safety?
A - You can be sure that meat is safe as long as it's got a Farm Assured logo on it, which it gets when it leaves the farm. You can guarantee its beef then. But if it's not Farm Assured you have to watch what you are buying. The app would make it easier to track beasts when they leave a farm.
Q - What are your next plans? Are you developing the app further?
A - We could do the same for sheep. For sheep it's more or less the same thing - but there's even more paperwork.
We are also hoping to talk to BCMS so that the app connects to the database automatically.
They said they would be interested if we got the app launched. So now that's happened we are going to talk to them again.