Data Literacy Program for Cow-Calf Producers

This program has been designed specifically to help cow-calf producers realize the benefits of incorporating better data management into their farm operations using digital data.

The practical benefits include reduced administrative burden (fewer hours spent on record management), optimized performance, and increased profitability. We know that once agriculture data is digitized, replacing paper-based systems, the enhanced ease of access and reuse of information, along with improved strategic decision-making year-on-year, translate into a significant return on investment.

The program includes two workshops and a six-month mentoring program, all part of the Government of Alberta sponsored Alberta Digitalization Agriculture Program.

Data Literacy Program

This program allows you to pick the digital tools that are right for your operations. We’ll model best practices through case studies and real-life scenarios aimed at enhancing performance, compliance, and financial outcomes. Additionally, we’ll cover the fundamentals of data governance, including agtech contracts and cybersecurity. You’ll be introduced to free and accessible tools for data management, with support for implementing new practices on your ranch.

Program partners include Olds College, Lakeland College, EMILI, Agri-Food Management Excellence, RDAR, and the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency.

Registration is free

To secure your spot, you must be prepared to attend both sessions in mid-June and late-November 2024. We will host a group of 30 Alberta-based cow-calf producers and guest speakers, eager and prepared to roll up their sleeves and try out new practices for better data management!

Dates: Thursday, June 13, 2024 and Thursday, Nov. 28, 2024
Location: Red Deer
Participants: 30 cow-calf producers based in Alberta


If you’re interested in joining the data literacy program, please express your interest by completing the short registration form HERE.

We are currently accepting applications. Submit your request, and we will confirm attendance in May.


Workshop #1: Thursday, June 13, 2024

Focuses on foundational skills and goal setting for data collection:

  • Introduction to agricultural data, the ag data ecosystem.
  • Reducing administrative burden, with an emphasis on traceability.
  • Animal performance management, focusing on key aspects of grazing, weight monitoring, and reproductive efficiencies.
  • Data contracts, data privacy, ownership, and data portability at contract termination.
  • Financial management: basics of income statements, balance sheets, and accrual accounting.

Workshop #2: Thursday, November 28, 2024

You choose which data you want to focus on for your ranch!

Producers are encouraged to bring back data for Workshop #2 to participate in exercises using any of their grazing data after harvest; weight data and/or feed intake; or calving distributions and open rates after the weaning of calves; to improve feeding, culling and breeding decisions.

  • Performance exercises: how data for weight monitoring, grazing, and reproduction can lead to insights for better decision-making.
  • KPIs and benchmarking: exploration of industry data and benchmarks to enhance farm management decisions.
  • Cybersecurity: basics of on-farm cybersecurity and readiness; vulnerabilities specific to cow-calf operations; hands-on worksheets and exercises.
  • Financial data: analysis, ratios and benchmarking; evaluating key data alongside industry KPIs.

Where livestock data is now

Agtech adoption and data use for decision-making vary significantly across Canadian agricultural industries, reflecting the diverse needs and challenges faced by farmers.

The majority of beef-cattle operations are small businesses with very tight margins, making it challenging to invest in software for small gains in efficiency.

At the same time, Canada’s cattle and beef sector contributes $22 billion to the Canadian economy. This is a national issue as well as a business and personal one. Data can help.

Building skills in data literacy means ensuring ranches can operate and thrive well into the future, making strategic decisions and leveraging technology effectively.

For more information about the Data Literacy Program for Cow-Calf Producers, please contact us.

Tarra Drevet
Manager, Business Operations
The Simpson Centre
E: [email protected]

Our Team of Experts supporting this project:

Sean Thompson, Director, Technology Access Centre for Livestock Production, Olds College of Agriculture & Technology

Susan Markus, Livestock Research Scientist at RDAR, and Research Scientist in Livestock & Agricultural Technology at Lakeland College

Dan Lussier, Director, Canadian Agri-Food Data Initiative, EMILI

Ashley Scott, General Manager, Canadian Cattle Identification Agency

Larry Martin, PhD and Principal, Agri-Food Management Excellence Inc.

Heather Broughton, Principal, Agri-Food Management Excellence Inc.