Date of Graduation

5-2023

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science in Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences

Department

Animal Science

Advisor/Mentor

Popp, Michael

Committee Member/Reader

Popp, Jennie

Committee Member/Second Reader

Coffey, Ken

Abstract

Societal pressure on farmers has become a more central part of the rhetoric surrounding livestock production. This study includes farmers in the discourse on the rhetoric surrounding climate change via interviews and simulations tailored to their operation. Previous research has addressed regenerative agricultural practices and conditions that influence farmer decision-making, but little research has analyzed decision-making in tandem with environmental practices. The literature reveals that cow-calf producer decision-making is influenced by their reliance on cattle as an income source, and farmers overall choose climate-friendly practices based on their perceptions about climate change. The goal of this research was to gather data from farmers about their decision-making and operations; and analyze that data through a decision-aid software to find factors that may help them choose both economic and environmentally sustainable production practices. Data were gathered using a semi-structured open-ended interview of five cow-calf producers in the Northwest Arkansas area and analyzed using the Forage and Cattle Planner (FORCAP) decision-aid software. The researcher found research-based grazing management practices such as rotational grazing, strip grazing, and stockpiling forage to have profound, but varied, impacts on FORCAP estimates of net returns and net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Each producer makes decisions based in some capacity on economics -- be it farm financial stability or the ability of the farm’s capital to support implementation of a practice. No producer ranked GHG emissions as a crucial factor influencing their decisions. Findings indicate that choosing optimal practices for GHG emissions can be highly profitable, but the impact of implementation will be variable depending on the scale and existing management practices of each individual operation. Policy aimed at encouraging emissions reduction by cow-calf producers will have to include financial incentives, but policymakers must be careful to include incentives in a way that reduces net GHG emissions.

Keywords

Climate Change, FORCAP, Decision support software, Qualitative Research

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