"Cow bank" software to reach even more US farmers

A dairy merger in the US looks to be good news for New Plymouth-based agri-business NZ Grazing.

A dairy merger in the US looks to be good news for New Plymouth-based agri-business NZ Grazing.

Its HMS heifer management system, developed with CSC New Zealand, is helping NZ Grazing earn $6 million a year. Some 400 Kiwi farmers use it here, handling up to 20,000 records a year, 50% more than last year.

Two years ago, US dairy firms also began using a modified version. NZ Grazing claims 150 US farms and 12,000 young cows use the system now, with 50,000 American beasts expected to use it next year. Farmland, a co-operative of 600,000 US farmers, offers the software to its members and has now recommended the system to merger partner Land O' Lakes. NZ Grazing says this means the system will be available to three million farmers.

NZ Grazing managing director Ian Wickham says he is talking with US farming chiefs about the software, but he won't comment on expected revenues.

HMS was based on CMS (Client Management System), developed by NZ Grazing and CSC New Zealand. Wickham says he came up with the idea for the software in the late 80s to help farmers manage young stock that is being reared for other farmers - on a kind of "cow bank" basis.

For five years he programmed in Excel 1, 2 and 4 to build the spreadsheets, but in 1993 worked with CSC to use their Oracle technology and develop a fully industrial database. Several years and $1 million later, the latest version HMS arrived. It took a year's planning, and nine months writing and testing by seven or eight staff.

HMS lets farmers record deaths, transfers, early removals and other changes within a herd. Customised details can also include pricing, profit margins, buying patterns, cause of death, growth patterns, mating options and in-calf rates. It also covers accounting and generates invoices and payments for field staff, as well as clients and graziers.

CSC New Zealand managing director Kimbal Riley says new technologies are developing to suit new needs. NZ Grazing is exploring remote access for HMS for independent farmers via laptops and the internet, he says.

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