The diverse nature of beef production was captured by establishing a farm typology based on an extensive survey of 1005 Canadian farms in 2011. The survey provided information on the type of operation, cattle numbers, feed storage and management, manure management, land use, producer demographics and attitudes to risk, and technology adoption. Principal component analysis and cluster analysis were used to understand the relationships among variables and to statistically identify farm types. A total of 41 diagnostic variables from 133 survey questions were used to define 16 principal components explaining 68% of the variation. Cluster analysis yielded eight major clusters as distinct farm types. The largest number of farms (37%) was grouped as small-scale, part-time cow-calf operations. Mixed operations (crop-beef) were next most frequent (22%), followed by large cow-calf backgrounding (18%) and diversified cow-calf operations that included crop-beef mixed operations as well as off-farm activities (11%). Cow-calf operations that finished calves comprised 8% of the total farms surveyed. Extensive cow-calf backgrounding operations, large backgrounding/finishing operations, and large finishing operations represented the remaining 3% of the farms. The typology not only provides a strategy by which the Canadian beef cattle industry can be characterized, but also improves understanding of the diversity of farm management practices to help develop policies and beneficial management practices.
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Vol. 96 • No. 2