Simulating the Farm: Computational Modelling of Cattle and Sheep Herd Dynamics for the Analysis of Past Animal Husbandry Practices

Jamie Joyce, Philip Verhagen

Abstract


This study forms part of a larger project analysing the development of the cultural landscape in the Dutch Roman limes region, including the development of the rural economy. The primary research aim in this study is to investigate changes in pastoral production as a result of differing population dynamics of sheep and cattle herds subjected to different animal husbandry practices. Differences between such practices have not been considered in previous models of pastoral production in the region where herds have been treated as static entities. In this study we simulated different animal husbandry strategies based on trends and developments inferred from the faunal record in a well-documented area of the limes zone. The results of these simulations were analysed for differences in population viability, as well as relative differences in production of meat, wool and manure, and relative requirements for pastureland requirements and labour. Our analysis shows that cattle and sheep herds exploited for products supplied by the animals whilst living (manure and traction from cattle, wool from sheep) exhibit higher growth rates than herds exploited for meat. In addition, they are able to supply larger quantities of calories. However these herds have higher requirements for labour and land, presenting a possibly limiting factor. We conclude that, in addition to complementing intensification and extensification of arable farming observed in the region, agriculturalists would have benefitted from herds with higher growth rates, particularly given their risk-aversion behavior during periods of economic uncertainty. These simulations will be subsequently used to produce more nuanced scenarios of pastoral production within agent-based modelling of the mixed rural economy in the Dutch Roman limes zone.

Keywords


Dutch Roman limes, System Dynamics, Zooarchaeology, Roman Agriculture

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5463/lac.2014.59

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Copyright (c) 2016 Jamie Joyce, Philip Verhagen

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LAC 2014 proceedings - ISBN 978-90-825296-0-9 - is an open access initiative supported by the University Library, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.