The need for a research tool that integrates the many physical and biological processes on a farm has led to the development of the Integrated Farm System Model (IFSM). The model has been used to evaluate a wide variety of technologies and management strategies, and these analyses have been reported in the scientific and farm-trade literature. Systems research in dairy and beef production remains as the primary purpose of this tool, but the model also provides an effective teaching aid. With the model, students gain a better appreciation for the complexity of livestock forage systems. The learn how small changes affect many parts of the system, causing unanticipated results. They may also use the model to develop a more optimum food production system. When used in extension type teaching, producers can learn more about their farms and obtain information useful in strategic planning. By testing and comparing different options with the model, those offering the greatest economic benefit with acceptable environmental impact can be found.
Input information is supplied to the program through three parameter files. The farm parameter file contains data describing the farm such as crop areas, soil type, equipment and structures used, numbers of animals at various ages, harvest, tillage, and manure handling strategies, and prices for various farm inputs and outputs. The machinery file includes parameters for each machine available for use on a simulated farm.
Simulation output is available in four files, which contain summary tables, report tables, optional tables, and parameter tables. The summary tables provide average performance, environmental impact, costs, and returns for the years simulated. These values consist of crop yields, feeds produced, feeds bought and sold, manure produced, nutrient losses to the environment, production costs, income from products sold, and the net return or profitability of the farm. Values are provided for the average and standard deviation of each over all simulated years. The report tables provide extensive output information including all the data given in the summary tables. In these tables, values are given for each simulated year of weather as well as the mean and variance over all simulated years. Optional tables are available for a closer inspection of how the components of the full simulation are functioning. These tables include very detailed data, often on a daily basis. Parameter tables summarize the input parameters specified for a given simulation. These tables provide a convenient method of documenting the parameter settings used for a simulation.