When Steele Byrum returned to his southeast Virginia family farm after 8 years working for Smithfield Foods, he brought with him a skill many farmers struggle to master — data management.
His off-farm job had him sifting through a jumble of mismatched data that resulted from acquisitions of many other smaller companies. Byrum was tasked with making heads or tails of the mess and getting future incoming data to fall in line with protocols so it all matched. He found himself tackling a similar challenge when he arrived back at the farm.
“When I first got here I think the perception was that time at the desk wasn’t a very good use of your time, but it is,” Byrum says. “That’s especially true today. We’ve got a lot more skin in the game so we need to know what direction we’re going and how our yields and profits are trending as a result.”
The internet, crop consultants and salesmen of a multitude of products bombard the modern farmer with suggestions for management and inputs, he says. “You need to be able to gather data and use it to see what works and what doesn’t and what will actually help you profit at certain price points.”
Here are three steps Byrum takes to effectively collect and utilize data from his farm.
Building a good structure and plan for bringing in data is the first and most critical step. It may seem overly simple, but the first thing Byrum…