- Agronomic: corn, potatoes, grass (misc. perennial), hay
- Animals: bovine, sheep
- Animal Production: feed formulation, feed rations, mineral supplements, pasture renovation, range improvement, grazing - rotational, vaccines, winter forage, feed/forage
- Education and Training: technical assistance, decision support system, extension, farmer to farmer, participatory research
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance, risk management, whole farm planning
- Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems
- Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures
Wyoming’s rural economy is heavily dependant upon the sustainability of cow-calf livestock producers who operate on an ever-narrowing margin of profit. By encouraging record keeping and use of this information to make economically sound management decisions small, family-size cow-calf operations can continue to remain a viable asset to rural communities. An increasing number of livestock producers are becoming comfortable with using computers for assisting in ranch management, record keeping, and decision making. Several computer based livestock record management systems are available so why is another one needed? On several occasions, I, as a Livestock Extension Educator, have assisted producers in trying to find a software package that would work for their operation. However, we found no program currently available that can meet the needs of western livestock operations and remain current in the quickly changing field of computer technology. Producers need a record management system that will remain current with computer technology and meet the unique needs of western livestock operations. Most importantly, creation and management of this database by a university would create an opportunity to integrate the educational material of the land-grant system directly with a tool livestock producers will be using to make day-to-day management decisions. This process would foster closer working relationships between Cooperative Extension personnel and producers, and demonstrate how adopting research-based management principles endorsed by the university, can be both profitable and environmentally sustainable. Wyoming producers need an inexpensive, easy-to- understand, and highly flexible database to encourage record keeping and information use. A database available to all Wyoming producers through the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service (UW CES) would meet this need and bring with it the educational resources of the land-grant system. The objective of developing a record management computer database for Wyoming cow-calf producers is to encourage record keeping, analysis of production and economic information, and integration of land-grant information to make economically sound and environmentally sustainable management decisions. Methods: A web-interactive database specifically designed to meet the needs of Wyoming cow-calf producers will be constructed so that producers with minimal computer experience can successfully interact with the program. This program will serve as a database for both production and basic economic data to assist the producer in making herd management decisions and also evaluate how these decisions affect the bottom line of the operation. An advisory group consisting of 3 livestock producers, 2 UW CES faculty, and 2 Extension Educators will be organized to oversee the development of the software. The UW CES Profitable and Sustainable Agriculture Systems Initiative Team will also have input on the initial stages of the database development and oversee integration of educational resources to coincide with management points during a typical production year. After the initial database development, the software will be put through a trial run and debugging exercise by implementing the database on two Wyoming ranches throughout a typical production year. During this test, the advisory group will evaluate which data fields, evaluation criteria, and capabilities of the software should be included in the final package. The database will then be piloted with a moderate number of producers allowing for further troubleshooting and fine-tuning before making the program available on a statewide basis. The official launch of the database will consist of a series of training workshops offered throughout the state to familiarize producers with potential benefits and basics of using the program. A mobile computer work station or facilities with several computers will be used during the trainings so producers may gain hands-on experience and become comfortable in using the database. A series of train-the-trainer workshops will also be held throughout the state to familiarize local UW CES educators with the database so that they may serve as local contacts and a first line of troubleshooting for producers using the database. The database will be web-interactive allowing future flexibility as the implementation by producers continues. This will prevent the program from becoming an antiquated relic, but rather allow it to be adapted as the needs of producers and software capabilities of home computers change. This will also allow the database to be integrated with information currently available through UW CES and other unbiased resources, such as the SARE-funded project “LandHelp.org.” For example, when a producer is making decisions on how many replacement heifers he will retain, a link to fact sheets or publications on this topic will appear in the database making relevant information readily accessible.
Project objectives from proposal:
The database implementation will create significant, measurable impacts promoting the sustainability of family-size cow-calf operations. When a producer implements use of the database his or her current production and economic data will become clearly evident. This will be recorded as a starting point so it can be referred to as the producer makes management changes, thereby allowing the impact of the database to be easily measured and reported.
Producer knowledge: By placing UW CES in a role to answer technical questions regarding the database, relationships between producers and extension educators will be fostered and many teachable opportunities will be created. This relationship and information integrated within the database will result in producers adapting sustainable production practices endorsed by UW CES. Producers will also undergo a process of self-discovery when entering and analyzing their ranch data leading them to make decisions positively affecting the profitability of the operation. Producers who implement the database can be expected to generate annual performance records on their operation and improve their understanding of the main economic forces affecting the operation.
Information disseminated: Through cooperation with the UW CES Profitable and Sustainable Agriculture Systems Initiative Team a web site will be developed as an information hub for Wyoming beef producers. This web site will house this database and supporting documents, as well as resources currently available for beef producers. Training sessions on using the database will be advertised by local Extension Educators using methods they determine appropriate. A brochure and press release will be developed for the local educators to use in advertising the training workshops. Impacts from the implementation of the project will be disseminated in a brochure, UW CES fact sheet, poster, and press release using the media, local UW CES offices, and professional meetings. The UW College of Agriculture Communications Office has also agreed to feature the database in the agriculture alumni publication and develop a statewide press release detailing how producers may participate. During the 3rd year of the project the principle investigator will travel to the Western Section of American Society of Animal Science meeting and present the findings and impact of the project also allowing the project findings to be published in the proceedings for the meeting.
Resources Impacted: During the initial three years of the project, it is estimated that 200 producers will fully implement the database and 500 producers will implement some portion of the program. Five producer trainings are currently scheduled with an anticipated attendance of 20 producers at each workshop. Thirty-two trainers are expected to be trained during the four train-the-trainer workshops, and each trainer is expected to gather at least 4 additional producers to implement the database. The number of participating producers is expected to grow in subsequent years following the initial implementation. Using the average size operation in Wyoming, this equals 1.8 million acres, and 645,000 head of cattle likely to be affected by this project (Wyoming Agricultural Statistics, 2003).
Economic and quality of life impacts: A similar effort conducted by Texas A&M Cooperative Extension, in which producers are encouraged to keep records and make decisions based on these records, reported an average savings of $16,931 to each operation that implemented the program (McGrann and Richardson, 2003). Using this number as a base and only including the estimated 200 producers that will fully implement the database, the result would be an increase of $3.4 million in NET income to Wyoming’s producers and therefore into the Wyoming economy.