An investigation of the effects of isomorphism on the North Queensland beef cattle industry

Allingham, Patricia Melba (2010) An investigation of the effects of isomorphism on the North Queensland beef cattle industry. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Forces are at work in the Beef Cattle Industry to create an environmentally sustainable industry that provides safe, quality-assured, and competitively priced, product for both the domestic and export markets. Many view the forces as isomorphic in nature: taking a 'one size fits all' approach to effecting change. Much of the impetus for change is driven by forces outside the immediate day-to-day life of the grazier; from Extension, government policy, environmental pressures as well as a new understanding of the consumer. However, change is not taking place at the pace, or to the extent, that 'change agents' deem satisfactory or successful. The constant catch cry is "How can we get them (graziers) to change?" The question that must be answered is whether the desired outcomes are achievable through the processes currently in place. Possible outcomes of the isomorphic process are the rationalisation and homogenisation of the Industry. This thesis addresses this question and focuses in particular on the case of the North Queensland Beef Cattle Industry. Using perspectives derived from Actor Network Theory (ANT) and Post-productivism, this thesis uses qualitative research methods to develop a new understanding of the complexity of change. A mixed group of seventy-two men and women, representing the various groups participating in the North Queensland Beef Cattle Industry were interviewed using semi-structured interviews.

Changes that have occurred in the Industry and the impetus for these changes are identified, and attention focused on why the change process has at best been uneven and in some instances has failed. Themes are developed at the individual level and the group level, which give an explanation for the perceived variability in the adoption of change. The findings are relevant to the North Queensland Beef Cattle Industry in particular, but have significance for all primary industries. The findings inform the implications for policy makers, lobbyists, extension purveyors, and all participants in the Beef Cattle Industry as society moves forward in an increasingly post-productive era.

Data analysis concentrated on developing an understanding of: the change context within which the North Queensland Beef Cattle Industry has been operating since the 1970s; identifying how graziers measure their own success; what motivates a grazier – or why they stay on their property; what lifestyle means to a grazier; differences between graziers from different locales; and, differences between graziers and other agricultural farmers. The results of the data analysis were used to develop a new model of visualising the major players in the beef cattle industry through an actor-network analysis. The grazier-network that evolved embodies a complex and dynamic set of relations enacted in response to environmental, economic, socio-cultural, political and institutional factors. A total of 13 actors are enrolled into the grazier’s network via 20 distinct instruments. Each link between the grazier and an actor in their network is a multi-strand conduit incorporating several enrolment instruments that are subject to significant interference from other actors in the network. Of particular note to agencies of change are both the preeminence of the two enrolment choices Self Image and Independence, and the power of the actors Locale, Property, Family Tradition and Cattle within the grazier network. The relevance and interplay of these items will need to be understood to develop extension programmes that are flexible enough that their isomorphic forces of change align with the grazier-network of individual North Queensland Beef Cattle graziers.

The results of this study, including the grazier-networks and accompanying tables mapped through it, will provide a tangible tool for planning, implementing and evaluating change in the North Queensland Beef Cattle Industry.

Item ID: 18990
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: isomorphism, beef cattle industry, North Queensland, actor-network theory, post-productivism, rural industries, change management, life-work balance, family farms, graziers, grazing businesses
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2011 23:00
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management > 070106 Farm Management, Rural Management and Agribusiness @ 50%
16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160804 Rural Sociology @ 50%
SEO Codes: 83 ANIMAL PRODUCTION AND ANIMAL PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8303 Livestock Raising > 830301 Beef Cattle @ 33%
97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society @ 33%
95 CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING > 9599 Other Cultural Understanding > 959999 Cultural Understanding not elsewhere classified @ 34%
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