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Young Ranchers Case Study


With record prices in 2014/15, some ranchers decided it was time to retire rather than expand. This is not too surprising given close to half of all SK farmers are over age 54. What it means is that new entrants are needed, but they seem to be in limited supply. As Figure 2 below shows, only 9% of Saskatchewan farmers are under the age of 35 (Statistics Canada Table 004-0017) compared to 20% of farmers who were under 35 in 1991 (Fig 1). The cost to enter the cattle business is steep; rising land prices, rising labour and capital costs.

Young entrants (under the age of 35) are joining an industry with increasing market uncertainty and increasing costs. The industry has changed so much over the last decade. How are new entrants managing?

SK Farmers by Age, 1991SK Farmers by Age, 2011

Government and industry have done their part when it comes to training and funding for new ranchers. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association’s Cattlemen’s Young Leaders program is developing the next generation of leaders in the beef industry. The Farm Business Development Initiative for Young Farmers (YFBDI) offered under Growing Forward I was for farmers under 40. However, this does not mean we have a sense of the actual management and marketing practices on the ranch. The reality is, we know very little about the actual management and marketing practices of cow-calf producers in Saskatchewan.

Cattle producers 35 years of age and under are the future leaders of the Saskatchewan beef industry. Conducting a case study on ranchers from this age group can help identify predominant management and marketing practices, areas for improvement, areas of excellence among these young producers, and areas for further research, education, and extension. By conducting a detailed case study we can know with certainty what management practices have been implemented, what practices have been avoided despite supportive research, are there practices that can be considered new and relatively unknown? Gaining a better sense about this age demographic will help guide the research and extension in the province in order to improve the competitiveness, sustainability and economic potential of our producers.

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What This Project Entails

  • Young Rancher Case Study - 35 face-to-face interviews were conducted during the Fall/Winter 2014/15 with cow-calf ranchers/producers who are 35 years of age or under (born in 1979 or later) to gain insight on their management practices and marketing strategies. Of specific interest were the motivating factors that led them to enter the beef industry. Furthermore, we asked questions to understand the challenges and opportunities that these young producers have encountered and the degree that provincial and federal programs have been helpful in meeting these challenges. Additionally, through this project we hope to better understand the plans and visions that younger producers have for the beef industry.
  • Cow-Calf Productivity Survey - A survey on cow-calf production and marketing practices was available for Saskatchewan producers to complete. The survey was based on one last conducted in Alberta in 1998. The results of the survey are being used to guide research and extension and to generate productivity and management practice benchmarks for producers to compare themselves to. Revived and revised, this survey was rolled out to producers across Western Canada in Fall/Winter 2014/15. View the results


Project Objectives

The specific research objectives of this project are to:

1. Investigate and characterize management practices of young ranchers (35 or under).

2. Investigate and characterize marketing practices of young ranchers (35 or under).

3. Determine labour, land and capital requirements and structure of young cow-calf ranchers.

5. Determine opportunities and challenges facing young ranchers.

6. Determine areas of need for young ranchers to be successful.


Recruitment has now closed for the Interviews - thanks to all who participated!

Young Rancher Recruitment Ad Recruitment Ad- Young Rancher Case Study

We recruited young cow-calf producers for the case study interviews. The interviews were held during Fall/Winter 2014/15. Interviews were a combination of face-to-face and over the phone, lasting between 1-1.5 hours.

Interviewees were cow-calf producers (including mixed operations) that were 35 years of age and under. If there is more than one operator (for example, a married couple), the average age of the operators needed to be 35 years of age or less.

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The Researchers

This case study was conducted by Western Beef's Beef Economist, Kathy Larson, along with Dr. Eric Micheels, Assistant Professor in the Department of Bioresource Policy, Business and Economics at the University of Saskatchewan.


Project Funding

We are very thankful to the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture's Agriculture Development Fund for providing the financial support to carry out this project.

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