Adopting a farm management system: D&D Horras Farms

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Getting started with Conservis

Bringing a farm management software system onto your operation is a big deal. It’s something that brings total change at every level. While the positive results are unmistakable, it can also be a big adjustment, and that’s why we like to share real stories from on the ground about what it really looks like to adopt farm management software.

Dave and Cherie Horras have a corn, soybean and hog operation in southeast Iowa. They run D&D Horras Farms with Dave’s twin brother Dan, and their operation came on board with Conservis in 2018.

“Our need for data has come a long way in the last five years,” Dave said. “Our growth has come around, and my hands aren't really on everything anymore.” They used technology on their farm but had a sense that there was something better out there, especially as their operation was expanding. They were also interested in a system that could keep everyone who needs to know what’s happening on the farm informed. “We knew we needed to do something different, and we wanted something we could share that’s tangible with our landlords and people we're in business with.”

Listen in as Dave shares more about why they chose to adopt farm management software on their operation, and what that process has been like.

Missing harvest loads before Conservis

Conservis first started its work helping growers get a handle on harvest, and that’s where D&D Horras Farms wanted to start, too.

“Our biggest thing is that we’d miss loads," said Dave. "There's times in my life where I didn't even check load tickets. I assumed all the corn would come to us, not a big deal. And then that spring before we started using Conservis, Cherie and I were actually checking all my settlement sheets... we have a swipe card, we go to ADM, and somehow even with my swipe card, they paid the wrong person [for] four loads of beans!” he said. “Right there on the spot, we knew we had to do something.”

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"I mean, to be able to track this stuff is a great thing. It's just another way to check your information.”

Dave Horras

Dave was also frustrated when technology involving data would break down, specifically yield monitors. “We knew we needed to do something more than just dang yield monitors on combines,” he said. “It's difficult because when one goes down…it's so important, and if you don't have a way to back up the information, you're fixing a yield monitor when you should be harvesting grain.”

With the goals of better load tracking and reliable yield data, they were set on getting something in place for that fall. “Harvest was a big deal. That was our biggest starting point: to back up the data and not worry about yield monitors, and to track loads and settlements.”

Adopting and implementing

Once they learned about Conservis the decision was fairly straightforward. The next stage – actually setting everything up – was what made Dave a little nervous. “It was the three of us sitting around a table, discussing the loads we missed and just the information we wanted… we just knew we needed it. But implementing it, that's the scariest part to think about, getting everybody on board,” he said.

They were relieved and impressed at what it was like to get Conservis set up on their farm. “It was really, really easy,” said Dave. “They came to our office, and we made it very clear that we had to use it and we were gonna use it correctly. Our onboarding setup was seamless.”

"It was seamless. Implementing is a big deal, and it was just so easy."

Dave Horras

He noted that the adopting of a farm management system is easier with younger people. “These young kids, we got mostly young employees that are running our auger carts and things. Those guys, it's easy for them. For me, I didn't grow up with an iPad and an iPhone, but these kids have,” he said. “You put young kids in your tractors and tell them you've got to use Conservis, they'll figure stuff out that I didn't even know about.”

Regarding older workers on their operation, Dave said the learning curve wasn’t too steep. “Now you get an older guy, maybe you have to work with them a little bit more, but they figure it out too. They learn it,” he said. “If somehow they enter something wrong, we see it in the office and we can fix it,” he said. “If it's totally odd to compare it to what everybody else is doing, it won't really enter into the system.”

No one wants to bring on a system and have a nightmare the first year out. (That’s why we’re with you from the beginning and for the long haul.) “They have such good service… we have a guy we call. We have a problem, we need some help, we call. It's taken care of for us.”

Dave went on about Customer Success. “Our guy answers the phone on Easter!” he laughed. “Seriously. I try not to do that to anybody. But they’re just real good about that.”

D&D Horras Farms began using just one part of the Conservis farm management system, but they quickly incorporated more of the system once they saw it in action. “We decided to start with harvest, and then we liked the system so much we decided to go ahead and implement it into our planning and budgeting systems the next spring,” said Dave.

More ease and simplicity for everyone

Dave appreciates that it helps keep track of the work during busy seasons. “Another thing that's nice too is that when we do pull into a field, it tells you how many fields you've got left. You're not going to forget one," he said. "I should know, that's easy to do. I could be forgetting to harvest Harold's corn over there, 40 miles away. You don’t go over there very often. But it's on the sheet, it's right there. It's after the work orders.”

He also mentioned the inventory tracking aspect of Conservis. “To me that was the hardest part as we grew, tracking inventory. I don't want to climb bins every week, to make sure I got enough corn. You just lose track. Once you grow a little bit, it gets harder and harder to keep that information in your head," he said. "You got five trucks hauling grain out, four or five contracts in the same day with different names. You can also track your contracts, understand 'oh this contract’s getting full, so we gotta shift and go here.'”

For Dave, Conservis takes some mental stress off. “You're gone for a few days, you've missed a lot of stuff!” he says. “There’s so many things working on the farm, and Conservis is just so simple.”

Dave also appreciates the different levels of authorization built into the system. “If it's an employee, they can only access certain parts of Conservis….your prescriptions, maybe your application. They’re just entering information, they can't receive any information,” he said. “Even the office staff, you can limit them to what they see.” Dave appreciates that Conservis allows him to set different accessibility levels, so he can control how much information his employees have access to. He knows we take data and data privacy seriously.

Increased insight into profit

As D&D Horras Farms expanded and things got more complex, understanding profit margins became more complex, too. “Sometimes you don't know if you're making money. When it was a smaller operation, I knew. I knew I was running the combine. I knew what I paid the guy for rent. I knew what I had invested,” he said. “Now I'm not running the combine all the time. So now it takes a data collection system and we're very happy with it.”

Their farm has been helpful in testing and helping develop our Financial Management tools, a newer feature set to our system. When we spoke with Dave a few months ago, he shared his excitement about its possibilities: “We do our banking with Rabo, and we’re part of a beta project with Conservis on banking information and budgets and feeding information through to our lender at our discretion," he said. "When we get it completed, this will make balance sheets and financials a little bit easier, and maybe build a little bit of trust with our lender [showing] that we're trying to do things right.”

He’s also looking forward to increased visibility into their farm’s profit picture and the ability to make sound financial decisions: “And that we know, maybe where our loose ends are and that, if we're not making money somewhere, maybe we just got to cut the ties.”

Dave is excited about their farm’s future with Conservis. Farm management software has transformed the culture of their operation and they’ve leveled up big time. Dave knows they can get even better. “This has been our starting point, but we want to take it further. We want to make sure we know we're making money and our lender knows that we're making money, or that we're maybe losing money, you never know!” he laughed.

Thinking about farm management software? Here are some important things to consider to decide if FMS is the right next step for you:

Is FMS right for me?

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