Summary & Review
WIRE derives from a similar integrated systems approach to management of agricultural operations developed by the Texas Cooperative Extension Service. A team of Wyoming extension professionals expanded, refined, and adapted Texas' Total Ranch Management (TRM) program for greater applicability to Northern prairie and Mountain regions. The WIRE process involves setting and prioritizing goals, inventorying resources, evaluating potential enterprises and developing enterprise plans, implementing plans, and monitoring subsequent progress toward goals. An interdisciplinary team teaches the course and remains on hand throughout the course to provide continuity to course delivery, and handle questions that may arise. WIRE courses have extensively tested and used in-depth six-year case studies that are based upon physical acreage, water development, and environmental data of actual western ranches. Resource information on forage, livestock, finances, and wildlife are provided, and human resource documentation was developed.
The WIRE program copies of a WIRE Case Study Video training available to county extension offices in the United States. Under the Integrated Management and Strategic Goal Setting program WIRE offered a one-hour satellite broadcast on the use of the WIRE Case Study Video training package to extension professionals, agricultural producers, and others, in the US. The demand for the full WIRE course by ranchers/farmers, extension educators, and others will also be evaluated. Under the Managing Change in Agriculture project WIRE program course materials and teaching techniques will be made accessible to extension professionals in the US.
A handbook was prepared to help participants apply WIRE processes to management of agricultural operations. The handbook focuses on two steps of the WIRE process: establishing strategic goals and inventorying resources. Specific steps involved in the WIRE process are listed below:
1. Establish strategic goals: A first step involves drafting a mission statement which captures the focus and purpose of the operation. This statement also describes the future direction of the operation. Following the mission statement is the set of strategic goals which should be smart, specific, measurable, attainable, related to other goals and constraints, and manageable. A brief list of available resources should also be made. Strategic goals may now be prioritized to serve as guides in the planning and decision making process. Resources may then be allocated to strategic goals, in order of priority. Strategic goals should have an associated deadline.
2. Inventory of Resources: All resources available to the operation must inventoried. This should include type, quantity, and quality of resources available to the operation, since these determine what enterprises may be considered in the planning process. Categories of resources to be inventoried will include basic resources, human resources, financial resources, livestock resources, and wildlife resources. The WIRE handbook provides details of what should be included for each of the resources listed.
3. Explore Possible Enterprises: Following the inventory of resources, the next step is to look for new enterprises or alternative ways of managing current enterprises. The main objective here is to identify ways to earn more revenue using existing resources. The management team tries to identify strengths and weaknesses of the operation, sometimes using data on previous performance. Any of the many measures of resource performance could be used. For financial resources for instance, financial ratios or indices may be computed to determine liquidity, solvency, profitability, and efficiency. Their use in identifying production problems like low yields, high costs, and low product prices is invaluable. With the above information the management team is now faced with the task of selecting enterprises that allocate resources to allow achievement of the strategic goals. Economic tools available for comparing alternative enterprises include whole ranch/farm budgeting. Management teams should only consider making changes after critically considering the following factors affecting profitability:
- Number of production units
- Production per unit
- Direct costs
- Value per unit
- Enterprise mix
- Overhead costs
4. Enterprise Plans: Following the decision on which new enterprises and/or modification of existing enterprises to consider the management team decides what resources are required by the changes. The process should also include identifying when those resources are needed. All activities in each enterprise plan should be carefully considered. Conservative estimates of production levels should be used, together with generous estimates of input costs.
5. Flow of Resources: Because several enterprises may be competing for the same resources, management teams should also consider resource competition. Where the resource is limited adding a new enterprise may lead to competition with existing enterprises. This could affect short term profitability and long term resource availability. Resource flow plans help avoid such conflicts. The 'enterprise calendar' developed in the enterprise plan is the basis of resource flow plans. Matching up the existing resource base with demands from all enterprises is helpful in revealing resource limitation and times of resource abundance. Additional adjustments must be considered for enterprise mixes which do not achieve a balance of resource supply and demand.
6. Implement Plans: All plans must ultimately be implemented by acquiring necessary resources, scheduling the tasks to be completed, and overseeing all aspects of the plan.
7. Monitor and Adjust: Evaluating programs gives an idea of how closely plans are being followed. The results could necessitate the occasional mid-course adjustment in plans.
8. Replan: It may be necessary to replan during the year, following the results of resource use monitoring. A year-end analysis should also be made to evaluate the performance of all farm/ranch resources. This analysis could determine how actual performance matches the budget. The plans that emerge for the next year, also serve to complete the WIRE management cycle.
The WIRE package includes a case study video of the Warbonnet Ranch. Run by Rich and Betty Gray, this ranch has been used to show how ranchers and farmers can make better decisions on the use of resources for better profitability and higher quality of life. Even as the range conditions deteriorated and forage problems became acute, Rich and Betty expanded the operation. But they continued to buy hay four months each year. The other problems they faced are:
- Calving season and hay demand
- Range renovation
- Sage brush
- Hay harvesting
- Family situation
- Retirement benefits for Rich and Betty
In order to increase income Rich and Betty are faced with the following alternatives:
- Continue to buy more hay
- Re-establish alfalfa stands to improve production
- Adopt rotational grazing system and increase harvesting efficiency.
There are other alternatives relating to the problems stated above. The video 'WIRE - A Proven Integrated Management Process for Agriculture' uses the above problems and alternative solutions to teach how strategic goals can be formulated.
Over 65 sites across the US and Canada registered to receive the WIRE Satellite program, and participant evaluation was extremely positive. Producers and system staff were the primary audience. What both groups seem to be saying is that in-depth, integrated approaches to agricultural production problem-solving is both preferable and necessary. Again, however, similar to the TAMU Master Marketer Program, the program does target producers who have the time and resources to invest.
The Managing Change in Agriculture WWW site