Beef and dairy industry

New technologies for land use intensification in cattle ranching

Challenge. Use low-cost methods of data collection to map out the rural landscape and uncover land use dynamics. Lead a team of on-the-ground surveyors to collect representative, property-level data on beef and dairy producers in a large, low-density area without on-property visits. Generate spatially explicit information (georeferenced property boundaries) for the surveyed properties.

Solution. We employed open-access technologies and a central-place sampling tool (also known as venue sampling) to obtain a representative sample. This technique was only appropriate because we identified a policy that mandates all ranchers to physically attend a central location during a 30-day period. It is known that over 98% of the ranchers comply with the policy. We also used participatory GIS to tackle long-known difficulties in relating survey data to GIS maps.

Results. The data collection was implemented in the year 2013 in the Brazilian Amazon, and its results have been used in various academic publications. A total of 384 farmers were interviewed, with spatial information collected for 95.5% of the respondents. The non-response rate was 41%, but we identified no systematic difference between respondents and non-respondents on three key characteristics. We collected data from cattle-oriented rural properties on land use patterns, adoption of technologies, migration history, quality of pastures, availability of capital, land values, and attitudes towards pasture management and environmental preservation.