A growing number of beef producers want what many row-crop farmers already have: The convenience, versatility and cost savings of precision farming.

Now a few of them have it, thanks to the work of Alabama Extension educators.

With funding provided by the Alabama Cattlemen's Association and the 50-cent Checkoff, Extension educators Ken Kelley, Josh Elmore and Olin "Buck" Farrior provided three southwest Alabama producers with global positioning system devices.

The increasingly affordable global positioning system technology associated with precision farming has enabled row-crop producers to plant, spray and harvest their crops with virtual pin-point accuracy. The result is dramatic cost savings for many.

Extension educators were inspired to secure the same advantages for the southwest Alabama livestock producers.

"Much like row-crop farmers, livestock producers use fertilizers and herbicides to make their pastures more productive, but they often have trouble making uniform applications," says Ken Kelley, a regional Extension livestock educator.

In the case of fertilizers, Kelley says, the end result of uneven fertilization turns out to be alternating light and dark green patches throughout the field.

Chuck Madaris, a purebred and commercial producer who also sells hay, benefitted from the grant and initially used his GPS device to spread chicken litter, which serves as his sole fertilizer source.

"When we spread litter in the hayfield, it was just about impossible to do a good job because the fields are cut smooth and it's almost impossible finding tracks," he says.

"GPS definitely offers an advantage."                 


Madaris also adapted the GPS device for use with spray applications, which seemed to work more effectively than the foam markers previously used.