Since the rise of computing technology in the late 20th century, researchers and extension teams worldwide have been harnessing its power to create, test, and distribute decision support tools, or (DSTs). A DST is just as it sounds; it is a program that, given the user’s inputs, performs calculations, yields estimates, projects financial values, and other relevant information. The user takes that information and uses it as another piece in the puzzle of business or production management to inform the crucial decisions made during production cycles (Breuer et. al., 2009).
Team members from the USDA Southwest Climate Hub and Jornada Experimental Range, working as part of the Sustainable Southwest Beef Project’s (SSBP) extension and knowledge co-production team, created a toolshed that makes it easy for agriculturalists, beef producers, farmers, and anyone else who is interested, to find a “Cow”culator with the click of a mouse. The new toolshed, “Tools for the Beef Industry”, aka TOBI, searches a database of over 550 DSTs published by cooperative extension, domestic and international universities and government agencies, NGOs, and private developers. Producers, extension agents, agricultural consultants, researchers, and many others can find tools within the toolshed to help them in their work.
By bringing all these DSTs together in one easy search application, TOBI will reduce the time it might take an individual to locate a tool for their needs, putting time back into producer’s schedules. TOBI may also offer a wider array of tools to choose from than would be otherwise available. Users can search for tools by platform – smartphone application, software, spreadsheet, etc., by topic – finance, livestock management, animal and feed performance, etc., and by the tool’s primary audience – producers, consumers, or researchers and technical service providers. This toolshed represents one component that will comprise the Southwestern Beef Knowledge System, the SSBP’s pinnacle science communication and decision support system designed to disseminate research findings and knowledge generated over the course of the project.
Article by Ethan Wright and Skye Aney
Breuer, N. E., Fraisse, C. W., & Hildebrand, P. E. (2009). Molding the pipeline into a loop: The participatory process of developing AgroClimate, a decision support system for climate risk reduction in agriculture. Journal of Service Climatology, 3(1), 1-12.
Dorn, C. and Aney, S. (2021) An online survey of decision support tools for beef cattle production. Manuscript in preparation.