Adrian, MN — ‘We have been waiting for this for years’, says Jeff Bullerman from the cabin of his feed mixer truck, as he waits for the previous truck to finish loading. Jeff is referring to Cattler, the cattle management app that he uses for his farm. Seconds later he will proceed to load and feed a set of pens as he does every day at 7 am, controlling the whole process from his tablet.
Jeff, 39, symbolizes well the archetype of the progressive farmer that is always looking for new tech; in this case, for his feedyard. The feedlot encompasses two locations with capacity for 3,800 head, which he manages together with his father and his cousin Ted.
Jeff Bullerman begins to load a batch of feed on his payloader using the app Cattler
‘You know, I have always felt like an early adopter; that’s what some people like to call it. But, for me it is just so obvious that you need to use this type of technology if you are taking your business seriously’.
Cattler is one of the newest digital platforms for the cattle industry, and it’s growing fast in the Midwest these days, as many farmer feeders are finishing the corn harvest and preparing for the new batch of cattle coming into the yards.
‘Up to 2021 there was just one serious player in the digital market for this size of feeder farm’ adds Bullerman; ‘in fact I used that platform for quite a while, ever since their inception. But then Cattler appeared on the scene and I saw clearly where they were going, how they approached the technical stuff... I saw the potential and jumped into it right away. And now I’m just one of many around the area that are either switching from other programs or jumping from pen & paper’.
Even if nationwide survey data do not exist on digital adoption within the livestock industry, private estimations from vendors in the industry, and beef extensionists like Alfredo DiCostanzo, from University of Nebraska-Lincoln, confirm Bullerman’s perception: over the last eight years, adoption of dedicated software for beef cattle operations seems to have more than doubled in North America, especially in the cattle feeder segment. The transition between generations at family-based farms is having a profound impact in the market. More and more young farmers that grew up using smartphones, tablets and laptops are managing the farm with better tools than spreadsheets or handwritten paper.
Young farmers go digital
This is also the case with Nick Czarnik, 30, from Genoa, Nebraska, who has been taking over the reins of his family farm gradually over the last couple of years.
‘At first I began to make some decisions on the cow-calf side of our operation, and after a while I focused on the feedyard, trying to add something new to how we were going about things.’
For around half a year, Nick has been soaking up the experience of working with software, being able to share input as well as following the pace of the app’s new features.
‘We always knew there was a better way to handle the farm, but I just needed to find a program that was also simple and friendly for my dad to use daily. They have recently released the Animal Health and the Processing Chute sections, which are a game changer for us”.
Member referrals in action: Nick Czarnick sharing his knowledge of Cattler with Chance McLean
Even if many people still don’t know about this, Cattler has been around since April 2022, but it was only in 2023 when it really began to take off, growing organically more than 20% per month over the last nine months, and with member referrals becoming the growth engine.
"We launched the app with an initial license focused on feeding and on livestock & input inventory management”, says Ignacio Albornoz, CEO and one of the three founders of the company. “That is what the small and middle size feeder market was using at the time, and we initially adapted to that demand, by making our platform more robust, more versatile and more affordable than other companies.”, adds Albornoz.
But recently Cattler has increased its offering with a new Animal Health module that highlights individual animal management capabilities, betting a big deal of expectations into it.
‘This is nothing you've seen so far’, assures Albornoz. ‘Right from the start, our platform was conceived in a way that, even if you are not using EIDs or visual eartags to run your feedlot, every animal is an individual from day one, even if it doesn’t have a name. You can keep it that way or add an ID or animal health information. So basically we can operate seamlessly between both worlds: the lot and the individual.’
The company has some strong principles when it refers to how it approaches the business.
‘We are cattle farmers ourselves, so we know first hand that having an open ear all the time is key, not only to provide a great customer experience, but especially because we grow the platform based on the feedback we get from our members. They are at the center of the development process the whole time, and we are constantly improving and adjusting the app based on what we learn from them. Because at the end of the day, the software needs to help them not only to be more precise, but also detect hidden costs and remain profitable’, highlights the CEO of Cattler.
This seems to be the key for Justin Rinkes, a farmer feeder from Holton, northern Kansas. ‘At the farm everything was pen and paper since ever’ remarks Rinkes. ‘We genuinely had no idea what we were missing out from a dollar perspective, how much we were just letting slip away. This thing has helped us to keep the wheels turning. Just the magic of having it all in my phone is great; less energy in memorizing information and more in improving things that I discover through the data’.
Rinkes signed up with Cattler in late 2022 and has been using it every day since. ‘There’s days I notice I have been using it all day, between more mechanical tasks like feeding, alerts I receive on the phone, the economics of one lot or perhaps a treatment that we give using the app to pull up that animal’.
Justin Rinkes, KS, always holds his coffee cup and his phone to run his farm
Such a member-focused approach has also been taken with regards to funding, relying on some of their members who use their product daily. Along with institutional investors, Cattler has received funding from cattle feeders: ‘Having our members invest in the company is a great validation not only for us but also for the industry as a whole. It is really our users who not only help us create the product but most importantly want to see us succeed’, states Albornoz.
The company has raised $1.5 million over the last three years, mainly from cattle feeders, ‘Angel Investors’ and Venture Capital companies, both in the US and Argentina, where the founders are originally from. More recently, it has joined the Elanco Benchmark program, which will be available in the app soon. It has also launched new functionalities on individual management, like Animal Health and the Chute section, and also a new insurance feature, in partnership with the insurance company Stockguard.
Cattler Corporation is a US company founded by three argentinians: Ignacio Albornoz, Martín Garbulsky and Ezequiel Conti. The company initially worked developing imagery-based sensors and automation for the ag industry, especially for the cattle industry, and later on transitioned to focus only in the beef cattle industry, and on the platform, leaving other products and prototypes as side projects that complement the main business, which is the Cattler platform.
Coming from the sensor and automation environment, the team previously had very good experience interacting with devices from other companies, like scales and EID readers, so that has given them an edge in the hardware side.
For more information about the company and the founders, please visit this link.