Farming app offers education and management advice

BROOKSVILLE, Ky. — Cattle ranches line State Highway 22 in Bracken County. The winding road in the hills of rural Kentucky leads to another winding road, this one without lines, through valleys and hills. There are green farmlands dotted with patches of plowed land stretching out to the horizon in all directions.

What do you want to know

  • Technology is becoming increasingly important for farmers
  • Application developed with a $200,000 grant
  • Bracken County farmer says app kept him farming
  • Record keeping is a major part of the application

It is in this vast expanse of sparsely populated countryside that, on a farm, technology has supplanted tradition.

Hamilton Farm is a 110-acre plot where owner Bart Hamilton, 42, raises his cattle. Also a construction company owner, Hamilton said for years he ran his business to support his habit of farming. This changed later, however, when Dr Les Andersonprofessor of extension in the department of animal and food sciences at University of Kentuckyand Dr. Justin Rhinehart, a professor of animal science at the University of Tennessee, used a $200,000 grant from the Kentucky Agricultural Development Council to develop the X10D (pronounced “extend”) app for smartphones and tablets.

“I always thought an app was for a big farm,” Hamilton said. “All this technology and stuff has to be for a big farm, not for farms like mine. An old neighbor down the street mentored me for years and helped me in many ways. He always said, “It doesn’t matter how much you have, only matters how you manage what you have. This program started for me just getting the calving window and a tighter breeding season, but it turned into a lot more about record keeping. It helped me achieve my goal of being able to farm full time. I can see this in the future now and I couldn’t before.

Dr. Les Anderson, professor of extension at the University of Kentucky, helped develop the X10D app for farmers. (University of Kentucky)

X10D is an application interface platform that allows users to focus their cattle farm information on one site using three components: management, connection and learning.

Kentucky has the largest cattle industry east of the Mississippi River and the eighth largest in the country. The average cattle farm in Kentucky has about 40 head of cattle. Early figures show that 167 farmers with an average of 41 head of cattle using the X10D application increased their productivity by 6%, their efficiency by 65% ​​and their income by 34%.

“There’s a wealth of knowledge at the University of Kentucky,” Hamilton said. “Not only are they helping farmers, they are eager to help you. Another thing about the app is the educational component. I’m lucky because I know what’s coming thanks to the app. It has educational things posted daily. Everyone looks at their phone and there are all these negative things but with the app I get unbiased information and information. There’s a world of research out there and they’re eager to get it to us. I’m not a big techie, I’ve never sent a single email, but I use this app all day, every day.

There are currently 247 X10D users with a combined database of nearly 3,000 animals. All users in a county are connected via a bulletin board where they network and communicate on beef industry topics, items for sale and production practices.

“With this app, I can easily look at years of data at my fingertips in seconds and see which cows work for me, which don’t, what worked in the past and what didn’t” , Hamilton said. “I can make decisions based on facts and not on what I think or what I hope, but on what I know.”

Bart Hamilton, owner of Hamilton Farm in Bracken County, scrolls through the X10D app. Hamilton was an early participant in the agricultural program that evolved into app development. (Spectrum News 1/Brandon Roberts)

The idea for X10D began in 2012 after Anderson attended a beef leadership conference and a group of northern Kentucky producers wanted to develop a new program that combined classroom instruction and hands-on experiences.

“In this five-county area, we found 15 farmers who wanted to cooperate,” Anderson said. “We basically redid their entire production schedule and script and then taught them how to keep records and make decisions based on those records. Over the next seven or eight years, we had 167 different farms across the state in this project. As we were going through this project and working on it, we realized pretty quickly that we needed a tool to help us. There weren’t really any convenient, inexpensive platforms or apps available, so we developed our own.

The goal of developing the app, Anderson said, was to help beef cattle producers stay more modern in their connectivity and provide a tool to help them assess their business for day-to-day keeping and management. files. The app was perfect for Hamilton, who admitted his record keeping consisted of handwritten notes in a notebook.

“It was a mess,” Hamilton said. “I’ve always been afraid of losing my laptop or recording something wrong. This notebook was the only file I had, and I took it everywhere with me because I had to.

The app is new, with beta testing not starting until October 2021. Anderson said the goal is to amass between 2,000 and 3,000 users this year and it will be advertised soon. more intensive now that it is no longer at the initial stage.

“What we really want are dedicated users – people interested in the educational content we publish and using the management component, where they enter and print reports on their production and financial transactions,” he said. he declares. “We don’t care about having 5 million users, we just need as many dedicated users as possible to drive the industry forward.”

Anderson said Hamilton is an original participant in the farm program. He visited the Hamilton farm in 2015 and said he met a man ready to quit farming.

“I’ll just be honest, his production was a mess,” Anderson said. “He wasn’t making any money. He wasn’t effective in any way, shape or form and he was ready to go out. We showed him how to produce in a more modern, efficient and profitable way, and his operation today is not recognizable from what it was when we went there in 2015.”

Cattle on Bart Hamilton’s farm in Bracken County. (Spectrum News 1/Brandon Roberts)

Hamilton, a married father of two, told Anderson his time is worth more than money and he now earns twice as much and spends half the time.

“That’s really our goal,” Anderson said. “We want to give users of this platform the ability to efficiently, quickly and easily access any educational materials they may need, access the community of beef producers in their county, and then access their data so they can make data-driven management decisions.”

About 50 counties in Kentucky have subsidized X10D, and many counties have already paid the $20 fee for annual subscriptions. Cattle producers can visit or call their local county agent to confirm before subscribing. All profits are donated to the UK Department of Animal and Food Science to support the Beef Extension Programme.

Visit the X10D website for more information on the app, which is available on Apple and Android platforms.

About Keneth T. Graves

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