Tara Porterfield knew her computer software program was good because she uses it on her own hay operation to manage crop production, inventories, sales and other records.

Clients have also told her that Hay&CropManager saves them time and keeps track of what they've sold and still have on hand.

But the icing on Porterfield's cake came when she learned her program was named one of the top 10 new products to appear at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, CA, Feb. 12-14.

“We're really excited to be named as a top product because we feel we have a useful and innovative program that can help a lot of people,” says Porterfield, who operates a commercial beef cattle and alfalfa hay ranch with her husband, Chet, near Macdoel, CA.

Porterfield started her journey into computer programming while bookkeeping for a 3,000-acre hay operation that used spreadsheets. “It was a complex spreadsheet method that wasn't providing all the data that we needed, particularly things like declining inventory,” she says.

So she self-taught herself a database program called FileMaker Pro, using it to create a customized hay management system.

“Then I got busier with our own operation and family,” and quit the bookkeeping job, she says. Five years later, people were still asking her about the program and what it could do. So she literally dusted it off but realized that FileMaker had upgraded its capabilities. Porterfield decided to start over — this time with professional help. She hired a software development company, Excelisys, Inc., and computer programmer Michael Rocharde was assigned to her job.

“We wanted to come up with something that was incredibly easy to use that would provide people with all the information they would need to make more timely business decisions and spend less time working on run-of-the-mill stuff,” Rocharde says.

Porterfield feels they met their goals.

“I think people are surprised at how much the program will do,” she says. It can help a grower write a complete contract, schedule a delivery, record and track complete production data and generate sales statements in minutes. Running comprehensive management reports is simple, too, Porterfield adds.

The program works as well for small-scale growers as it does for large operations and can handle all types of crops in addition to hay.

“Most businesses use QuickBooks, which is a very good accounting program, but it's not much good for anything else,” Rocharde says. “What our program does is become a front end to QuickBooks, handling sales, receivables, inventory and the client ledger, as well as all production records.” It can also constantly track where a grower is or isn't making money by comparing cost and income data.

Growers really want help keeping track of their product inventory, Porterfield adds. “With this system they know exactly what they have. All they have to do is select the crop they want to sell and it gives them a complete list of what's available. They click on an item, enter the quantity that they're selling and the price, press “save,” and it's on the contract and removed from inventory. When a lot is sold out, it disappears. They can't make a mistake and oversell it.”

Hay&CropManager is also completely customizable to a grower's or broker's specific needs. And two module options, for additional cost, are available. One provides invoicing for growers who do custom work. The other is an equipment maintenance and inventory module.

The premium program, marketed by Porterfield through Ag-Biz Solutions, LLC, costs $2,795 and is compatible with Windows- and Mac-based computers. Comprehensive video tutorials and daily technical support are part of the package.

“We feel, for the amount of time saved and the valuable management information it provides, it's a real value for the money spent,” says Porterfield.

For additional information, call 866-674-9241 or visit www.haymanager.com.