- Management decisions during drought disasters
|Last update: August 17, 2011 03:16:28 PM|
Management decisions during drought disasters
M J Herselman
Grootfontein Agricultural College
DROUGHT is a common occurrence in most parts of the traditional Angora goat region. Drought disasters also occur from time to time, and the decisions taken during these conditions usually determine the financial survival of the Angora goat farmer. The advanced computer technology of today, however, enables us to pre-determine the financial implications of various decisions and
choose the best options. For this purpose the animal production division at Grootfontein has developed a computer programme, which evaluates various management options under drought disaster conditions. The economic and other effects of the drought on farming is estimated for the drought period, as well as for the succeeding nine years, with the supposition that the following years are normal. Aspects that are taken into account in the evaluation include, among others, the following.
- Nutritional requirements of Angora goats, coupled to the size and production of the animals,
- the current drought disaster relief scheme,
- recovery phase after the drought. Because the after-effects of a drought are felt for a much longer period than just the drought itself, the programme is also designed to simulate the recovery after the drought, and * differences in the price of mohair produced during the drought and in normal years. Deficient nutrition causes the production of less, but finer mohair, which is an important price-determining factor.
In order to use the programme, certain information from the farmer must be fed into the computer, such as stock numbers and production norms. After this information has been given, an endless number of possible management options that can be considered for use during the drought can be calculated. Every time that an option is produced, the programme will quantify the economic implications. Some of the questions to which answers can be found, include the following.
- Must animals be culled in order to qualify for the disaster drought relief scheme? The question of emaciated animals, for which there is no market, can also be easily considered.
- How many animals must be withdrawn so that, after the drought has broken, the producer does not end up with problems?
- Which animals must be kept in the nucleus flock, if it is decided that animals should actually be withdrawn?
- Must animals be fed at all, especially in the current situation with regard to product and feed prices, or must animals rather die?
- After the drought has broken, must flocks be built up again by breeding from the nucleus flock, or would it be better to buy more animals? At what prices will it be profitable to buy in animals, if animals were allowed to die during the drought?
- If it has been decided to feed, how much feed must be given? In other words, must animals be fed only to survive the drought, or must they be fed so that production and breeding can continue normally?
- What will be the best type of feed, for example corn and cob meal at R480 per ton, lucerne at R280 per ton or drought pellets at R550 per ton?
For each of the above, and many other questions, the short term as well as the long term implications can be calculated, and so enable the farmer to make better decisions.
To make the programme clearer, an example where the following two options are considered, can be examined.
Option 1: A disaster drought prevails and Farmer A decides to cull one-third of his stock in order to qualify for the drought disaster relief scheme. Because the cost of feed is so high, it is decided that animals will only be fed maintenance ration and therefore no increase by breeding will take place.
Option 2: A disaster drought prevails, but Farmer B decides not to cull any animals and also not to feed. Animals are thus allowed to die, and when enough animals have died to qualify for drought relief, feed is still not brought. If the drought continues for one year, the farmer expects that only a third of the animals will survive.
The gross margin (R/SSU/Year) and the cumulative gross margin (R/SS) of above-mentioned two options for 10 years are shown in Table 1. Year 1 is the drought year, while it is supposed that the following nine years are normal years.
In Table 1 it can be seen that Option 2 originally has a higher gross margin than Option 1, but that Option 1 recovered again very rapidly in the following year. The original high gross margin of Option 2 can be ascribed to the fact that more than a third of the animals died, and then a subsidy was received, but no feed was bought. When the cumulative cash flow position is considered, it can be seen that Option 2 would be the most economical long-term management practice to follow.
It must, however, once again be stressed that there are many options that can be considered, and that the above two are only used as examples. Individual cases can differ totally from the above, and for this reason it is best to treat them individually. If farmers wish to have more clarity about certain economic aspects of drought management, use can be made of the service offered by Grootfontein. It would be preferable for the farmer to personally discuss and study his own individual case with the personnel of Grootfontein in order to get the best help and advice.
Angora goat and mohair journal 33 (2)