Computerizing Your Farm or Clinic
- Oct 5, 2001
According to a recent survey conducted by The Horse, 73.9% of our readers own or operate personal computers. This number is high, and computer ownership shows no signs of slowing down because computers have the ability to simplify many aspects of our lives. For the computerized farm, this means having all records from breeding dates to billing invoices, and from feeding regimes to veterinary records at your fingertips. There is also the added bonus of having access to those records in a matter of seconds and being able to make a printout of any record with the touch of your finger. No more looking in shoe boxes and trying to remember the date for that bill that you had a question about. Now it is as simple as booting up your computer and printing out the invoice in question.
Not only can you run management programs on your computer, but the computer also can serve as an invaluable tool for researching information on any and all equine topics, such as breed organizations, show results, or schedules of horse shows and events. All in all, the computer has the ability to become an essential, time-saving, and useful research tool that many farm operators already have learned to use to their advantage in all phases of farm and horse management.
Software for the Farm
It's time to find the system that will work best for your specific needs once you have decided to replace the shoe box filing system with a computerized system. There are a number of companies that deal strictly with horse farm management and veterinary clinic management. They have software starting at $49.99 for basic tools to aid you in managing a couple of horses, and prices range into the thousands of dollars for software to help you successfully manage a large farm or clinic. Some of the more expensive systems include the software and the computer itself, which is a nice touch if you are also in the market for a computer.
If you already have a computer and it has Internet access, then you might want to look on the World Wide Web for samples of software that are available to you for managing your horse operation. Many software companies have sites on the World Wide Web, and on these sites offer a preview of their product. (See below for a listing of equine management and veterinary management software companies that have Web sites.)
Not all software will have the same programs. This is the point when some researching is beneficial in order to purchase the software that will best meet your needs.
Following is a list of categories that can be expected with most equine management program, but keep in mind that most of the software is designed so that it can be customized to meet each farm's individual needs.
- Client Information--This category will include all pertinent information about your clients, especially helpful when running a boarding facility. The information includes telephone numbers, addresses, and all pertinent data you require.
- Horse Information--Recorded in this category will be information such as the horse's full name, breed, sex, date foaled, color, markings, registration numbers, previous owner, purchase price, selling price, new buyer, and stall number.
- Feed Management--This feature includes customized feeding regimes for each horse. A printout of this information is handy when you are traveling to horse shows or going on vacation because it can become a complete list of feed instructions that can be followed while you're away.
- Employees And Riders--Keep names, addresses, and phone numbers, stored by last name with easy phone number reference information.
- Journal/Diary--Keep a journal of your training activities.
- Show Information--Keep records of shows attended and placings in the shows along with a showing budget.
- Scheduled Services--This allows you to customize a schedule for each horse, such as worming, shots, farrier services, etc. You can specify the number of days, weeks, or months between each of the tasks. The program will automatically calculate the next due date.
- Breeding--Keep up with your horse's reproduction and teasing records, as well as records of foals.
- Health--This needs to be very flexible because it has to address the individual needs of each horse. Choose health descriptions from pre-defined items, or create new items if needed. Some software programs allow you to enter information, such as worming date, on a single horse's health record and copy it to all of your horses, which is useful if the veterinarian or farrier comes to your farm and works on all of the horses the same day.
- Business Functions--Keep multiple checking account registers. Record checks, edit your clients' monthly billing information, print invoices, and look at a clients' entire business history with your farm.
- Staff Scheduling--This feature allows you to schedule employees' work times.
- Genealogy--Keep track of your horses' bloodlines while having easy access to them.
- Appointment Calendar--Keep appointments straight with this section, which will remind you of where you are supposed to be and when.
For the Veterinarians
Software also is available that caters to the needs of equine veterinarians. This software is capable of organizing client data in a way that will make billing and case histories easily accessible and easily maintained. Most of these programs are available for laptops as well as desktop computers, which allows the veterinarian to have access to all of a horse's records even while in the field examining an animal. Most programs also will allow the bill to be split when dealing with a syndicated horse, which is an added bonus when caring for horses which have multiple owners. Information in the system can be further separated by horse, date, or client. Software for this profession includes information on the following:
- Client records--Keep all pertinent information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, etc.
- Patient records--Keep all records of the horse, treatments, age, sex, etc.
- Tracking of client referrals--Keep track of which horses have been referred to you and by whom, as well as which horses you refer to other veterinarians.
- Pharmacy labels--Have easy access to a printout of pharmacy labels.
- Inventory and purchasing--This is a useful accounting and inventory tool.
- Staff hours--Schedule staff's work week.
- Appointment scheduling--All appointments are easily tracked.
- Computer-generated images, such as X rays and endoscopic exams--Especially useful if you are out at a farm and need to explain to a client what the problem is with a horse.
- Paperless medical records--Keep medical records neatly and efficiently organized. These records can be printed out easily if paper copies are needed.
These extras make it easy to keep records up-to-date, and allow you to print invoices while still at a farm. As with the software for farm management, most of this software can be customized to meet the specific needs of an individual veterinarian.
Most people are familiar with the http://www.something.com that denotes a Web page because it's visible on just about every advertisement, product, or on the cover of any magazine. This is the electronic address for a specific homepage of a magazine or product on the World Wide Web. This address allows you to view information about a magazine, product, or organization via your computer.
To gain access to the internet, you must have a modem to accompany your computer. Many computers now come with internal modems already in place; however, if the computer of your choice doesn't have an internal modem one can easily be hooked up externally in a matter of minutes. External modems can be purchased at stores specializing in computers for as little as $100.
With a modem in place, the next step in accessing the Internet is to get a online service provider, such as America Online, CompuServe, or MSN (the large national providers) or a local service provider (check the yellow pages). The service provider will allow you to connect to the Internet, and from that point on the whole world is at your fingertips, so to speak.
With the Internet, products and services for the equine industry can be viewed instantly, without the delay that comes by calling an 800 number and ordering the information by mail. Once on a homepage, you can communicate easily with that organization or company via e-mail, which is another service you will get when you sign up with an Internet provider. The Web page will have a button that you select to send an e-mail to the company or organization with a request for more information, or with any questions you might have. With practice, you can become efficient at "surfing" the Web, and you will quickly learn that you have a seemingly endless supply of information on every subject.
For a list of equine sites on the World Wide Web that include everything from equine health to equine breed associations, go to The Horse's home page at http://www.thehorse.com. From this site you will be able to go to numerous other equine sites on the Internet through hot links (click and you are there), or go to our sister site Hay.net directly from our site for thousands of direct links to other Web pages. Having breed organizations online is a big help to the farm because any questions about registration or stallion prospects can be answered easily.
(For more information on Internet access and e-mail see The Horse of October 1996 and April 1997.)
Macintosh or PC?
If you already have a computer, whether it's a Macintosh or a personal computer (PC), the software for equine management is readily available, although not always the same. As far as Internet capabilities go, it doesn't matter which system you use as long as you have a modem. As a general rule, software for Macintosh computers tends to run a little higher in cost than software for a PC. If you don't yet have a computer and you will be buying one specifically to help in managing the farm or clinic, then the best advice is to find the software that has the features that you are looking for, and buy either the PC or Macintosh that is needed to run the software. Some software will only run on a PC, while other software will run only on a Macintosh.
Some companies, like Forest Enterprises, Inc., have software available for both PC and Macintosh computers, in which case you will want to look at your computer needs beyond the farm management software. For instance, there might be a program that you want to run that is only available for Macintosh, in which case a Macintosh computer would do the job of both the management software and the other software you want to run.
While it all seems a little complicated, the process of computerizing isn't impossible. In order to help alleviate the technical problems that might be encountered, all of the software companies contacted have technical support programs in place to aid with any problems. Internet providers also have toll-free numbers available for technical help with any Internet problems that you might encounter.
About the Author
Tim Brockhoff was Staff Writer of The Horse:Your Guide to Equine Health Care from 1995 to 1999. His degree is in Agricultural Communications from the University of Kentucky, and his equine experience is with American Saddlebreds.
POLL: Farm and Liability Insurance