This project investigated the influence extension methodology had on the adoption practices of NSW beef producers. The project focussed on the factors leading to producer adoption; the practice and culture of extension practices of the NSW Department of Primary Industries; the impact of extension methods on producer decisions and evaluated the effectiveness of a single method of extension, Continuous Improvement and Innovation, within NSW beef industry extension. This project was carried out in order to better understand and improve extension practices by NSW Department of Primary industries Livestock Officers (Beef Products).
Data were collected utilising quantitative and qualitative methods. These methods included an online survey of 141 beef producers in NSW who were known to have participated in NSW Department of Primary Industries extension activities. The survey received a response rate of 28%. The qualitative methods included 10 semi structured interviews with producers selected following their survey responses; and 10 semi structured interviews with 8 current and 2 recently retired NSW Department of Primary Industries Livestock Officers (Beef Products).
The results of the online survey indicated the producers who participate in NSW Department of Primary Industries beef extension activities interviewed for this research project were slightly younger (50 years) than the average age of Australian farmers at 52 years of age; they operated enterprises on slightly smaller property sizes, but with a higher level of stock numbers and as result had slightly higher production. The producers in this project sought information in order to enhance their skills and knowledge in order to improve the efficiency and productivity of their enterprises.
Surveyed producers were found to actively seek information to stay abreast of current developments and for skill improvement and maintenance. Their participation in extension activities is qualified by the relevance and capacity of the information on offer to fulfil their requirements. The project clearly showed that producers strongly value scientifically proven information and that their participation was also validated by the time commitment associated against the quality of information.
The investigation of approaches preferred by NSW Department of Primary Industries Livestock Officers (Beef Products) indicated a conservative attitude to extension delivery, with high utilisation of awareness activities. Culturally, NSW Department of Primary Industries Livestock Officers (Beef Products) placed higher priority on technical credibility and industry knowledge than on extension knowledge. This restricted their capacity to explore, develop and apply new methods of extension. It was evident that this cultural barrier was exacerbated by lack of training opportunities for NSW Department of Primary Industries Livestock Officers (Beef Products) and by their high workloads.
Results suggest that individual extension methods did not have different impact potentials in initiating producer change, as long as participants were provided with a structured program that clearly indicated outcomes and provided opportunities for interaction with peers and experts.
For effective practice, it is recommended that extension methodologies should be able to provide participants with clear outcomes, opportunities for interaction, and a focus on information which is relevant, timely and practical. Delivery of extension program successfully also requires an investment in training and skills development of extension officers. This training needs to recognise and harness the culture of an extension organisation if it is to be successfully implemented.