Impacts of farmers' management styles on income and labour under alternative extensive land use scenarios

C Morgan-Davies, R Wilson, A Waterhouse

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13 Citations (Scopus)
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High Nature Value farming systems cover a large proportion of the agricultural land in marginal and mountain areas of Europe. These large areas face environmental, economic and social challenges and formulating policies that support all these aspects is difficult. Although farmers play an important role in maintaining the ecological diversity of these areas, their differing management styles are often not recognised when land use policies are formulated. This paper examines these issues using an optimisation model based on an extensive livestock farm in Western Scotland, where four farmers' management styles are combined with a series of six alternative future land use scenarios, to provide a more realistic and robust insight of policy impacts on land use and habitat, labour and farm income. The management styles derived from a typology that was based on a composite of both available resources and attitudinal components. The six alternative scenarios encompassed competitive land use diversification options (woodland and wild deer shooting), abandonment of native pasture for agriculture, no support, high market prices for livestock products, and increased animal efficiency. Although diversification via forestry was found to be potentially central to increasing farming incomes, farmers' reticence to adopt forestry or any diversification was a major constraint. This case study also reinforced that managing livestock on these HNV farming systems was not economical unless support subsidies were in place. The only scenario which could enhance the HNV biodiversity value on farms was one with high market prices, resulting in the most varied land use (sheep, cattle and forestry). All others scenarios meant an increase in afforestation (which displaced livestock), an increase in livestock grazing or abandonment of the land, none of which would maintain biodiversity in these areas. Very few scenarios were able to increase on-farm labour demand and although greater flexibility in farm labour was found to be essential, labour scarcity in these marginal mountain areas remained a problem. In conclusion, this case study reinforced that farmers' management style and motivation do play a major role on how they respond to policies, and unless this role is acknowledged by policy-makers, these European HNV areas may not be targeted properly for the most desired outcomes and sustainability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)168 - 178
Number of pages11
JournalAgricultural Systems
Early online date24 May 2017
Publication statusFirst published - 24 May 2017

Bibliographical note



  • Farmers' styles
  • High Nature Value farming
  • Optimization model
  • Policy


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