Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Not counting sheep

Survey of Rural Decision Makers

Not counting sheep!  The Survey of Rural Decision Makers explores “how”, “why” and “why not” farm management decisions are made.  With over 4,500 respondents in 2017, the survey provides insights across all regions of New Zealand.

Farmers often complain about the number of surveys they are asked to complete and how many times they answer the same questions. When we road tested the Survey of Rural Decision Makers, farmers told us they enjoyed doing the survey and that it had really made them think! We put summary results on line so they can be shared with farmers who participated – and our web stats show that they really are interested in this information. Many others – including regional councils - also find this summary information valuable, and it’s freely available online.

Much of the information is presented by region so you can easily see regional differences across some of the survey topics. Other information is presented at a national or industry scale. Here’s an example relevant to regional councils:

Questions about farm plans were introduced in 2017. 34% of those surveyed told us they had a formal written farm plan, and 34% of those farmers had farm environmental plans developed by or with their regional councils. We then went on the drill down into the management practices implemented on farm, including the impact of implementation (or the expected impact for those who had not implemented). There are real opportunities for more detailed analysis that considers implementation of various farm practices, their impacts, and expectations alongside other factors collected in the survey such as age, experience, succession planning, and attitudes toward risk.

The Survey of Rural Decision Makers has now been run three times: 2013,2015, and 2017.  We continue to refine the questions and to ensure that emerging issues relevant to farmers are addressed. The survey is designed to complement other surveys such as the StatsNZ Agricultural Production Survey and those conducted by industry sector bodies for forecasting. Questions are focussed on decisions and actions taken by the farmer – particularly the “how”, “why” and “why not”! The survey provides a cost-effective source of information for analysis to support regional policy development and evaluation. Analysis delivering figures or data tables and notes to support interpretation starts at around $6,000 depending on the information sought.  Regionally specific information can support collaborative processes, consultation, and communications with your stakeholders.