Main content area

Home on the Digital Range: Ranchers’ Web Access and Use

Ghajar, Shayan, Fernández-Giménez, María E., Wilmer, Hailey
Rangeland ecology & management 2019 v.72 no.4 pp. 711-720
Internet, cluster analysis, decision making, education, herds, human resources, interviews, outreach, ranchers, risk, rural areas, sales, surveys, Colorado, Wyoming
Access to the Internet continues to grow in rural areas, ensuring ranchers will have increasing opportunities to use the Web to find information about management practices that may provide them ecological and financial benefits. Although past studies have examined the role of the Internet in informing daily decision making by agricultural producers, no studies have focused specifically on the use of the Internet by ranchers in the western United States. This study uses a mixed-methods approach (a survey and semistructured interviews) to assess the extent and patterns of ranchers’ Internet use in Colorado and Wyoming, identify barriers to greater use, and establish a typology of Web use behavior by ranchers. Our findings indicate that Internet use is widespread and that age, education, and risk tolerance predict the extent to which a rancher will rely on the Internet for day-to-day ranch management. A cluster analysis delineated four distinct types of Web usage among ranchers: uninfluenced, focused on sales and herd management, moderately influenced, and an Internet-reliant type. Outreach personnel can use this classification to determine the potential utility of digital outreach tools for their programming on the basis of their target audience and outreach topics.