According to Statistics Canada, only 39 per cent of Canadian farms have a computer for farm use. Of those farmers with a computer, only 30 per cent use it for farm bookkeeping, payroll, and/or taxes. If this doesn’t seem right, you are correct. These figures are from the 2006 census, so long ago that we have definitely seen an increase in computer use since then. Did this year’s census ask about computers?
We have had computers on our farm for more than 30 years, in large part as I had used them in business accounting in my previous life and detested going back to calculators to add up endless columns. Nothing fancy, but it served the purpose. We have since had several computers on the farm — none by choice, just a case of having to replace a crashed unit to get things done.
To appease the dairy gods in Mississauga and Ottawa, I decided (for once) to do as told and use my computer to create our farm account for DairyTrace, a system which, in a perfect world, would be able to instantly track the location of every Canadian dairy cow should we have another Mad Cow outbreak. BeefTrace will do the same for the Canadian beef herd and supposedly there is the same coming for sheep, and goats. RFID tags and paperwork for all. Unfortunately, the world is far from perfect and the movement of livestock has not changed.
Ideally an animal is born on your farm, tagged and reported. When she has a calf, it too is tagged and reported. If you sell to another farmer, you report it as leaving and the buyer reports it as arriving. If it dies at either location, you report it. If you cull it and send it to a sales barn, you report it. When it passes through the slaughterhouse, they report it in their “end of life” report. Every step requires property identification numbers (PID) plus the licence plate number of the trailer that moved the animal.
At the sale barn, if a hobby farmer buys your cull to take home and milk or raise for meat, the odds are they will not follow the protocols nor have a DairyTrace account or a PID. It will not be reported adding another animal to the untraceable thousands across Canada. Home slaughtered animals could also not be reported.
Anyway, I digress. While setting up our DairyTrace account, our main computer crashed. It went quietly, no flashing lights or screaming; just refused to do anything. Dead. I tried the usual: turn it off, wait awhile then restart, then unplug it and plug it back in. Nothing. It would not be revived. Gone with all our files, two editors waiting and, worst of all, our usernames and passwords.
This was right before the May long weekend. No one except for farmers and corner store owners work on weekends, so the computer didn’t come back until Wednesday. The good news was that 98% of the files had been saved. We now have an external backup device.
So the computer and backup are up and running, a printer problem was fixed (I am more capable than I thought) and the past few weeks have been spent re-entering the usernames and passwords, which were lost. What a tedious and annoying task. As every website requires both these days; you can imagine the frustration. Some use email for the name, some you must make up. Do you remember all yours? I’ll bet not!
We keep a red notebook listing all the sites and the info needed to enter them, so most data is there but we have cases where things were changed and not recorded. That becomes irritating, especially when you think you know the password but don’t.
Protect yourself. Get the program that automatically remembers every username and password as you enter it. Just don’t forget the password to access the password program or you will be really stuck. Maybe keep a red notebook with one solitary entry in it.
Angela Dorie is an agricultural writer and a Jersey farmer near Cornwall.