Decision Enabling Data Collection and Management Project

2006 Annual Report for LNE04-207

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $100,081.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Project Leader:
Tom McConnell
West Virginia University

Decision Enabling Data Collection and Management Project


This has been both a productive and disappointing year with the project.
The farm groups are using their hand held devices in many different applications. Many, but not all, are keeping records and downloading their data into their records at home. They are using their PDA to make on-the spot decisions in their operations. The list of tasks the farmers have developed includes but is not limited to calf weaning data, equipment parts numbers, break-even budgets for back-grounded cattle, and to generate invoices for a animal bedding pick-up and delivery business. Some farmers members have incorporated the Quicken program into their PDA use.
The disappointment and frustration comes from the fact that Dell, the company that manufactures our choice of PDA which is called an Axim, changes the device on nearly a quarterly basis. After months of research to choose the best handheld no one in the company indicated that there would be so many new models coming out. This has made much of our training of little lasting value as much of the information developed to get our farmers started has no relevance with the newer models. And, of course as a farmer chooses to upgrade he or she has to start at the beginning. That is not true with the software as they work well with any model and would be useful for other PDA models.
As we reported in 2005, it was a real challenge to get the farmers equipped with the correct combination of computer and software, so any changes with this fragile group has been devastating.
This year has been productive otherwise; as we did complete 4 more lessons pertaining developing a record keeping system.
We have three county based groups of record keeping farmers who use their PDA on a daily basis and still are finding other tasks for it.

Objectives/Performance Targets

There are presently 18 farmers who are using their PDA on a “many times a day” basis. There has not been mush progress toward the performance target of the other 12 to make 30 farmers achieving that status. Our next generation training is very slow as we have had extension agent changes that resulted in no support people to lead the local effort.
The electronic lessons are nearly completed and have been used with some farmer groups to test them for clarity and some agents to allow them to initiate their own programs.


Many other software applications have been developed to make the PDA more useful to farmers: the list includes an extensive cow calf management program that includes a complete farm machinery inventory with depreciation and serial numbers for use at the dealership. A program called Beef-break that allows farmers to determine their suggested purchase price for cattle to background is also on the list. Schedule F liability and chicken litter pricing programs were adapted to the PDA list of tools. There are others that can be found on the WVU Extension/ Farm management web site at One farm family who sells and then collects bedding from a race track has adapted a multiple user PDA program to track inventory and create invoices.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

This material and program was presented at the Small Farm Conference in February in an attempt to attract a new user group of market gardeners. The initial farmer groups are using their PDA for decision making.