Analysis of farmer cognitive structures with respect to high fecundity sheep management systems: a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Agricultural Science in Agricultural Economics and Farm Management at Massey University
The object of the research presented in this thesis is to
evaluate three multivariate techniques for representing and
analysing farmer cognitive structures. The context involves
representation of farmer belief and attitude relationships
relative to their overall attitude towards high fecundity sheep
production systems. Modelling of behavioural determinants
positions this research within the soft component of management
and is aimed at moving from the 'art' to the 'science' (as
defined by Nix, 1979) of soft systems management research.
Reviews of high fecundity production systems are presented such
that the 'act' of high fecundity was defined as: "to maximise
the weight of lamb weaned within flocks with a potential of 140%
Lambs Born per Ewe Weaned. "
The Fishbein and Ajzen ( 1979 mode of reasoned action is
extended to incorporate the differentiation of input and outcome
concepts. Galileo Methodology (Woelfe 1 et al, 1977), involving a
system of interview methods and questionnaires in association
with a Metric Multidimensional Scaling program, was used to
measure the belief and attitude relationships and then spatially
represent the cognitive structures of a sample of Western Hawkes
Bay Farmers and a group of Experts.
The extension objective of this research is to identify
differing cognitive structures between groups of farmers with
and without experience of the act relative to an Expert group.
Increasing levels of farmer experience resulted in stronger
overall attitudes to the act.
Multiple Discriminant Analysis and Metric Multidimensional
Scaling incorporating Procrustes rotations of spatial
representations, identified the concepts of Maintaining Ewe Body
Condition during Pregnancy, Reduced Stocking Rates and Multiple
Lamb Survival as having the least degree of alignment. The
cognitive structures of the Experts and Inexperienced farmers
are in closest alignment, contrary to the predicted result from
the experiential learning theories discussed. It is hypothesised
that individuals with similar cognitive structures may have
differing overall attitudes. The Management of the extension
process is discussed relative to this hypothesis, as the
extensionist may need to assist managers to learn the 'right'
relationships not just assist managers to learn, if the
efficiency of learning processes are to be enhanced.
Extension messages for each group, derived by linear Aggregation
theory (Woelfel and Fink, 1980), relating the act to the
concepts of Multiple lamb Survival, later lambing, Multiple lamb
Growth Rates and Summer Pasture Control are predicted to
strengthen the overall attitudes towards the act for both farmer
A multiple regression version of the Fishbein and Ajzen model is
presented as another means of predicting change in the overall
attitude as a result of belief and attitude changes.
The conclusion from this study is that Multiple Discriminant
Analysis and Multidimensional Scaling offer significant
opportunities to develop soft systems research in a descriptive
sense, provided issues regarding measurement adequacy are
The potential of muitivariate analysis for predicting cognitive
change appears to exist but requires validation through time
series data analysis, and resolution of the behaviour
determinants and how these change through time.