Bringing together — agriculture and analytics
Having grown up on a crop and cow-calf operation in south-central Nebraska, Jason Bargen, Full Value Beef Analytics Expert, has a love of agriculture and the outdoors — but also of math and science.
After taking a statistics course in college, his professor cornered him, asked about his plans after graduation and encouraged him to earn his master’s degree in statistics.
“I had no idea what opportunities a graduate degree in statistics could open up. But my professor asked me what industry I loved, and taught me that you can always apply analytics to that industry,” said Jason. “As I look back at why am I here, working at Elanco with this degree, it just seems like it’s the perfect fit for where I grew up, but also for my passion around math and data.”
Jason joined the team as a statistician in 2008 to help support Benchmark® database services. Now, as the leader of the analytics team, he helps create more opportunities for U.S. customers across all species within Elanco. He also helps evaluate business opportunities for beef producers globally.
Data ≠ analytics
“A lot of people think data is information,” said Jason. “But, collecting data is not valuable unless you’re actually using it to make decisions to your advantage.”
Jason distinguishes data from analytics by explaining that analytics is a method, whether it’s finding an average or using a prediction-model, and applying that method to data to extract insights that can be used as a valuable asset. One simple way to use analytics is to track an average over time.
“People are sometimes afraid of the word analytics, but analytics can be simple,” said Jason. “The important thing is figuring out how you create insight from your data. That is the information that is valuable.”
Jason recommends that producers looking for new opportunities start by identifying their goals and asking how data can help reach those goals. The next step is to determine what data is needed and begin collecting it. He also advises starting small, because even small initiatives can really help out in the long run and translate to profit.
“When you’re in a business that fluctuates from highs to lows, it’s important to do the small things right, and analytics lead to better decisions. A few dollars here and there add up to a lot,” said Jason. “For example, when feed costs were $350/ ton dry matter, an improvement in feed conversion of only 0.10 lbs can be worth $10.50/hd. In a margin business, $10/hd is certainly worth honing in on.”*
Jason also notices that people seem to really want to dig into data and understand it when markets are challenging. Those small dollars and cents don’t seem to be as big of an issue when people are making money versus losing it.
“When you see high cattle prices today, as an analytics professional, I think insights are just as important,” said Jason. “You might be making good money now, but you could be making more if you leverage that data to your advantage.”
Why Jason does what he does
Understanding what drives people forges more powerful partnerships. For Jason, family and values are extremely important. Whether it’s the people that depend on him at home, or his second family at Elanco, making meaningful contributions to the things that matter most is what drives him to do what he does every day.
“I’m passionate about analytics, I’m passionate about my family, and I’m passionate about this industry,” said Jason. “As I talk with customers, one of the things driving the conversation is understanding where the need is. What can we be doing that would bring value to their organization?”
As the first statistician supporting the Beef Business Unit at Elanco, Jason is sharing his passion for analytics throughout the organization.
“Seeing how I’ve been able to start out as a statistician and grow this into an analytics team that’s taking these initiatives across the company has really inspired me,” said Jason. “It just goes to show you that when you start having success, you can always continue to build on that success.”
*Example assumes 600 lbs of feeding period gain and $350/t DM ration cost.