Last update: August 18, 2011 11:05:09 AM E-mail Print


Computer simplifies decision-making


D Wentzel & MJ Herselman



COMPUTER technology is today successfully applied in many fields, to simplify and improve the making of management decisions and thus increase the efficiency of an enterprise. In agriculture, computers are beginning to play an increasingly important role in a rapidly changing farming situation, by being able to integrate all factors, prices and their effects and to supply an accurate answer. The Angora goat farmer has to make decisions daily, which can often have far-reaching effects on the success or failure of his farming venture. Grootfontein's Animal Production department has now developed a management and decision-making programme for the Angora goat farmer.

Firstly, the programme makes use of certain fixed information, for example the size of the farm and grazing capacity. With the help of the Meissner table, any changes in the management system will always be handled in such a way that the grazing capacity will not be under-utilized or exceeded. Secondly, all variables (e g kidding percentage, flock composition, prices of products, input costs, hair production, etc) are used for the final estimation of gross income. In addition, all practices (e g flushing, supplementary feeding, etc), together with their costs and effects on production, are taken into account for the calculation of gross income. The analysis gives the farmer's income from his current farming system. Thereafter the farmer can ask, "what will happen if I do this" (e g increase kidding percentage, change the flock composition, give supplements at certain times, etc). Taking into account the effects of the various practices, these questions can be quantified in terms of monetary value. The following must be noted:



Because computer programmes are normally abstract and difficult to understand, it is probably best to use a practical example, to demonstrate its utilitarian value. Information, such as is shown in table 1, is programmed into the computer.



For the purpose of calculating income, mohair prices and value of animals, as shown in table 2, are used.



After the said farmer's data has been analysed by the computer, the report, as given in table 3, is obtained.




The adjustments that the computer made in the summarised stocking table, in table 3, in order to obtain an optimal stocking rate for the farm, must first be noted. (Ewes and wethers have been increased, because the stocking rate was below the grazing capacity). With regard to the "Summary of Income and Expenditure" (p 97), this farmer's gross income, should he adjust his stock numbers according to the stocking table, will be R189 790,00 or R92,78/SSU or R30,99/ha.


Thereafter the farmer can begin to ask questions with regard to possible adjustments in management, to see what possible effect they have, for example:

What will happen if he provides his animals with the following supplements, with the aim of increasing reproduction:

Flushing: 400g chocolate mealies (CM)/ewe/day for 30 days

Supplementary feeding during pregnancy:

300g CM/ewe/day for 30 days

Supplementary feeding of ewes with twins:

450g CM/ewe/day for 60 days

Supplementary feeding of kids: 200g CM/kid/day for 90 days after weaning.

The effects of these supplements on production and reproduction performance are based on experience and research results. If he does not agree with these effects, however, the programme can be altered to that which is more correct, in the case of that specific farmer.

According to the summary of income and expenditure, the farmer's gross income (after the cost of feed has already been deducted), rises to R207 096,00 or R101,43/SSU or R33,81/ha. On the basis of this information, the farmer can now decide whether he wants to introduce this particular farming practice or not.

Similarly, answers to many questions that farmers normally ask, can be obtained on a quantified basis, for example:

What will happen if I do not breed from my two-tooth ewes?

What will happen if I decrease the mortality rate of my kids?

What will happen if mohair prices rise or fall?

What will happen if there is a further increase in the price of feedstuffs?

Will it still be profitable to provide supplements?

What will happen if my flock composition alters? (Percentage of wethers increase or decrease; replacement percentage increase or decrease, etc).

What effect will the marketing age of surplus animals (young ewes and young

wethers) have on gross income? And so on.

With reference to the above, it is clear that computer programmes can be a useful aid in providing the farmer with correct information about his own farming enterprise, so that his decision-making can be founded on a technical/economic basis. It must also be stated that the value of this development lies in using the computer. It is not necessary for every farmer to buy a computer, because computers with the programme in question, and personnel, will be available at Grootfontein, agricultural centres and extension offices, to carry out the necessary analysis of his data, for the farmer. This data and the results can then be stored on a floppy disc for later use and comparison. This way the farmer will also be able to preserve all the information, regarding his farming system, in an effective recording system.



The Angora Goat and Mohair Journal 31, 23