Analyzing farm record keeping methods is the focus of Farm Information Systems: Their Development and Use in Decision Making a research bulletin released.

The publication features case studies from farmers who manage hog, cattle, grain, dairy and organic vegetable production.

Researchers from 12 states contributed to the North Central Regional publication. The collaborative effort began in 1993 with an analysis of farm operations in Oklahoma, Iowa, North Carolina and Minnesota.

Robert Jolly, Iowa State University economist, said researchers wanted to analyze the changing technologies available to farm managers.

"Our interest was to try to understand how information technologies changed the management of farm businesses," Jolly said. "The work involved a series of detailed interviews with farm managers and their families. We looked at the nature of the business, the decisions they were making and why and how they were making those decisions."

Damona Doye, an economist at Oklahoma State University, said researchers interviewed successful managers to get a better understanding of how they utilized technology and record keeping methods to improve their business.

"One family has regular business meetings and another family budgets 10% of the farm's gross income for networking with other producers," Doye said. "Those aren't things that many farm families do, but it may help business."

Farm information systems are the tools producers use to understand risk management and production planning. Researchers not only looked at technology used to collect data but also analyzed how farmers use consultants and other forms of information gathering, such as notes and calendars.

"We started with a mechanical view of information systems but it is much broader than the network, computer or the management culture," Jolly said. "It is the way people talk to each other, the use of routine meetings and staff development."

The study is a starting point for economists to analyze how technological changes are affecting farm operators. Jolly said understanding information use and technology adoption are important factors in helping producers choose farm information systems.

The publication is available for $6 plus shipping and handling charges.

To order Farm Information Systems: Their Development and Use in decision Making a research bulletin contact the Iowa State University Extension Distribution Center, 119 Printing and Publications Bldg., Ames, IA, 50011 or e-mail or call 515-294-5247.

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