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Customising the Grazing Land Management Education Workshop to the Borders Rivers Region of Queensland

Project start date: 15 January 2009
Project end date: 31 July 2009
Publication date: 01 October 2011
Project status: Completed
Livestock species: Grassfed cattle, Grainfed cattle
Relevant regions: Sub-tropical sub-humid
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MLA relies heavily on best practice programs such as Making More from Sheep and More Beef from Pastures to deliver information and support to red meat producers that encourages adoption of best practices. An evaluation of MLA’s investment in adoption activities has shown that extension and related activities can influence behaviour toward more productive practices (Centre for International Economics 2009).
Kilpatrick (2000; 1997) established that farm profitability was related to participation in learning activities because learning brought about an increased ability and willingness to make successful changes to farm management practices.
The structure of the red meat production industry in southern areas of Australia differs substantially from that in northern areas. In particular, unpublished research by DPI Victoria has shown that there are few large scale beef producers in southern areas. This research focuses on southern areas.
Large scale farms (gross farm income more than $500,000 per year) are the most likely to be able to capture productivity improvements, because they have resources to invest and can amortise investment costs over a larger production base (Knopke et al 1995). These farmers are already well served by advisory services, particularly from the private sector (Wilkinson et al 2011). Producers with medium to large financial scale ($200,000 to $500,000) make much less use of private consultants than large scale producers. Farm businesses of this scale represent an important target audience for MLA programs because they have sufficient scale to capture the benefits of new technology but have small enough scale to benefit from the extension and support provided by MLA programs.
Beef producers have the lowest use of information and services of any Victorian agricultural industry (Wilkinson et al 2011). In Victoria, the top 20% of beef cattle producers have an average gross margin per hectare 2.5 times the average (DPI 2010, p47). Even if only some moderately productive medium scale producers can effect productivity gains, and even if those gains are small, productivity benefits to the entire industry will be substantial.​
Achieving increased adoption of best practices will not be easy. Awareness of MLA best practice programs is no guarantee of participation, and participation is no guarantee of adoption of best practices recommended in the programs. Adoption is complex. It is not a simple yes-or-no decision but a continuous process that includes non-adoption, partial or incomplete adoption, gradual adoption, stepwise adoption, adaptation, technological evolution and disadoption (Wilkinson 2011). Barriers to adoption often have a rational basis (Vanclay 1992).
The aim of the research was to examine the reach of MLA best practice programs into southern red meat producers with medium to large (but not the largest) business scale, in particular to identify the nature and extent of their engagement with and participation in the programs and their use of practices recommended by the programs.

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Project manager: Mick Quirk
Primary researcher: Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries