Development of Marketing Channel Assessment Tool for Livestock Producers

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2011: $12,162.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Matthew LeRoux
Cornell Cooperative Extension- Tompkins County

Annual Reports


  • Animals: bovine, poultry, rabbits, swine
  • Animal Products: dairy


  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, marketing management, market study, risk management
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, analysis of personal/family life

    Proposal abstract:

    We endeavor to develop a simple data collection and analysis system which provides valuable decision making information to livestock and value-added dairy product marketing farms. Farmers marketing in the “local foods” marketplace participate simultaneously in several marketing channels including wholesale and direct channels. Working closely with farmers, we identified six factors of marketing channel performance and developed a system to quantify these factors with a minimal amount of record keeping by the farmer. We have already developed a successful Marketing Channel Assessment Tool (MCAT) for use by fruit, vegetable and cut flower growers, however the system is not immediately applicable to livestock products. Livestock producers, both meat and value-added dairy, face the same decision-making matrix and challenges in marketing channel assessment as produce growers so we plan to develop a MCAT for their use through in depth case studies with four farms. Upon completion, this new MCAT for livestock products will be made available to extension personnel and farmers throughout the region for individual farm assessments.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    While the Marketing Channel Assessment Tool has been developed for producers of fresh, highly perishable goods, the nature of marketing meat or cheese, with a longer shelf life and a variety of products (cuts) is different and more complicated. Upon learning about the MCAT for produce growers, livestock producers have requested a similar tool applicable to their trade. To address this need, we plan
    to work closely with four farms as case studies to develop a simple record keeping methodology which will provide “snapshot” data for each channel utilized. Snapshot data refers to a short period of thorough data collection which allows for quantification of the six factors of marketing channel performance: profit, risk, labor required, sales volume, associated costs, and lifestyle preferences.

    During the case study period, farmers will be interviewed to determine the best means of capturing and quantifying channel specific costs and returns as well as labor hours. Experience and record keeping with the case study farms will reveal which unit is best to base assessment on, time (one week or one month) or product unit (one head or pounds). Through this process, we will develop a simple labor log and record keeping system to collect the data necessary for market channel assessment. Considerations for alternative reporting periods and requirements will also be considered based on feedback from the case study farms; e.g., incorporating marketing techniques for differing sales periods such as during peak farmers’ market seasons and ‘off-season’ sales from freezer trade operations. Similar to the current MCAT for produce and fresh cut flower growers, we will develop an analysis tool, in the form of a programmed Excel spreadsheet which allows for simple data entry and analysis. The Marketing Channel Assessment Tool makes channel comparison relatively easy with results that are valuable and aid decision making. Additionally, the MCAT will allow the farmer to weigh the importance of each factor in ranking based on their own farm-specific business goals and attitudes. For example, if lifestyle preferences are considered much more important than labor hours required, the farmer can express that and the data for each factor is weighted accordingly. Once the data collection and analysis tools are completed, case study farms will receive the results of the assessment done for their farm.

    The results of the assessment for each farm will be a simple “best-worst” ranking of the marketing channels utilized, tailored to individual farm preferences and data. In addition, the tool will be marketed and made available for farms throughout the region to provide a base for future benchmarking analysis.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.