The New Zealand dairy industry needs to achieve 3 to 4% pa gains in productivity. Accomplishing this on-farm will require continuous innovation by farmers. Innovation may result from the refinement of existing practices, or the introduction of new practices or technologies. Farmer learning will be pivotal to the rate of innovation. However, despite its importance, relatively little is known about farmer learning. We investigated the tactical feed management processes used by two high-performing dairy farmers over summer-autumn for three years, using a multiple-case study design. Learning undertaken by the farmers could be classified within three broad domains (the production and management systems, and the environment), but normally involved the interactions between at least two of these. Two stimuli initiated learning: the occurrence of extreme conditions or the introduction of a new management practice. Different learning processes were identified with respect to these. This study provides a framework for extension agents to identify the “knowledge gaps” farmers need to close in order to improve productivity. It also assists developers of a new technology, since farmers want to know how the new technology impacts on their production systems, responds under a range of conditions, and is best incorporated into their management.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 63, Queenstown, 116-119, 2003
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