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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — University of Tennessee researchers are creating a computer software program to help the state’s small beef cattle farms be more efficient and productive.

Dr. Emmit Rawls, professor of agricultural economics for UT’s Agricultural Extension Service, said the program will contain information on weather, cattle breeds, surveys, economic studies and other data.

When producers enter information about their acreage, feed, cattle and other resources, the program helps them evaluate different markets, alternative feed crops, herd health programs, and other management decisions.

“A farmer can tailor it to his operation by the information he puts into the program,” Rawls said. “It can show how alternative management practices will affect the bottom line.”

The program will be especially helpful to small producers with less than 50 head of cattle, Rawls said. That includes about half of Tennessee’s beef cattle farms, he said.

“Small beef producers do not have the economies of scale that benefit larger operations,” Rawls said. “This computer program can help them determine the best management practices to make them more competitive.”

The software is being developed by researchers at UT’s Agricultural Extension Service, College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, and the University of Georgia. It is funded by a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Dr. Tim Cross, associate professor of agricultural economics, said Tennessee beef cattle sales average about $400 million annually and are among the state’s leading agricultural commodities.

Cross said 20-30 percent of Tennessee beef farmers use computers for farm operations, and the number is growing.

“There is room for improvement at many of Tennessee’s small beef cattle farms,” Cross said. “This computer program can show producers better ways to increase their returns.”

Contact: Dr. Emmit Rawls (423-974-7271) or Dr. Tim Cross (423-974-7306)