DCAP Social Research and Knowledge Support Program

Social scientists from the Department of Environment and Science (DES) are delivering an integrated program of research and knowledge support, to meet the priorities of, and enhance the adoption of findings, tools and practices through, the Drought and Climate Adaptation Program (DCAP).

Social research

The team are exploring questions and issues relevant to DCAP policy, research, development and extension (R, D,&E).

What influences how livestock producers prepare for drought?

Drought preparedness is a key part of livestock management. To better understand how producers prepare for drought the team have conducted several research projects.

In a scoping study, the team investigated the factors that influence decision making for better drought preparedness and management in Queensland grazing enterprises, by interviewing grazing specialists and a small number of producers.

They found six key factors that influence drought preparation:

  • a producer’s financial and economic situation;
  • the nature of grazing production systems such as the long cattle production cycle, and the subtlety of landscape degradation;
  • each producer’s management focus and style, such as their record keeping, planning and decision-making systems;
  • their knowledge, willingness and capacity to learn and change;
  • their personal attitudes and circumstances; and
  • the role of government.

This study is called Factors limiting decision making for improved drought preparedness and management in Queensland grazing enterprises: Rural specialists' perspectives and suggestions (2016-2017). You can find out more by reading:

  • The Executive Summary of the Final Report - {link1}
  • The Final Report - {link2}
  • A presentation on the report findings

How Queensland Grazing Industries Prepare for Drought

The team expanded this research to identify the cultural factors at play in drought preparation. This research involved analysing media and government communication, as well as interviewing producers. It found several cultural factors that complicate and limit drought preparedness in the Queensland grazing industry:

  • differing government messaging about drought management (e.g. messages about battling adversity versus managing business risk);
  • multiple motivations influencing their decision-making;
  • drought and permanent climate change seen as separate issues;
  • a reliance on traditional sources and ‘closed’ forms of knowledge;
  • distrust of seasonal climate forecasting;
  • difficulty managing uncertainty;
  • limited awareness of the full spectrum of drought preparation practices; and
  • unrealistic expectations for Government support.

This study is called Towards greater drought preparedness in Queensland grazing: Lessons from qualitative interviews and discourse analysis (2018 – 2020). You can find out more by reading:

  • The Executive Summary of the Final Report - {link3}
  • The Final Report - {link4}
  • A presentation on the report findings
  • A related Academic Paper - Paxton, G. (2021). Building cultural capital in drought adaptation: lessons from discourse analysis. The Rangeland Journal, 43(3), 101-108. https://www.publish.csiro.au/RJ/RJ20077 

Increasing farm management planning and written plans

It is hypothesised that written farm management plans lead to better farm management decisions. The next phase of research is investigating factors that influence whether producers write whole of farm plans. The team will then recommend ways to increase the use of whole of farm plans in Queensland primary production industries.

Behavioural and Social Science Knowledge Support

Under the knowledge support program, social scientists and extension officers work together to improve the design, usability and delivery of products and services. Behavioural and social science concepts and methods, as well as behaviour change techniques, help improve products like decision support tools and other extension activities for Queensland livestock producers.

Story-telling Animations

The team have also developed several animations to convey complex information, or to promote conversation about challenging farm management topics. These will be of interest to land managers, consultants, extension staff, education service providers and science communicators.

Understanding percentiles in climate data animation

In this story-telling animation, Mick, Jim and Rusty the dog, help viewers to use climate and rainfall data. This data is helpful when making grazing land management decisions, but it is presented in percentiles, which can be hard to interpret. Story-telling is a useful educational tool, and this animation is a novel application of it.

Terciles for Climate and Pasture Growth animation

Using a story-telling approach again, Liz joins the characters from the previous animation to help viewers interpret data that uses terciles. Several Long Paddock reports are presented in terciles, and this animation uses examples and metaphors to help people use these reports in decision-making.

From a big wet to a dry spell - Jim's property auction experience

In this story-telling animation, Mick, Liz and Jim briefly discuss many topics relevant to drought preparation and decision making in Queensland grazing businesses, such as: choosing to sell or hold onto your livestock; weighing the option to buy a bigger property or invest in off-farm assets; how land condition changes slowly over time; the importance of using independent sources of advice, including science-based decision support tools; and the unavoidable cycle of wet and dry periods.
Unlike the percentile and tercile animations in this series, this video is intended to prompt discussion, rather than provide advice.


Case studies (TBC on a case-by-case basis)

  • McCartney F and Rennie L. (2021) Case Study 1: Using animation and storytelling to communicate complex climate information to the Queensland grazing industry in Impact case studies from the Drought and Climate Adaptation Program (DCAP) Phase 2. Coutts JR: Toowoomba
  • McCartney F and Rennie L. (2021) Case Study 2: Mapping graziers’ journeys to improve extension support for the adoption of early weaning in the Qld grazing industry in Impact case studies from the Drought and Climate Adaptation Program (DCAP) Phase 2. Coutts JR: Toowoomba

Presentations (TBC on a case-by-case basis)

  • McCartney F. (2018) Social and Behavioural Science Knowledge Transfer for DCAP, presentation at…
  • McCartney F. (2018) Some cognitive biases relevant to grazing drought decision making, presentation at…
  • McCartney F. (2020) Behavioural Finance for Grazing Futures, presentation at….
  • McCartney F. (2020) Are You Listening? An Active Listening Interactive Session for Grazing Futures, presentation at..
  • McCartney F. (2021) Conducting a pre-mortem to address the planning fallacy and groupthink, presentation at…

Contact Details

For more information, please contact socialandeconomic@des.qld.gov.au

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Last updated: 9 May 2024