Skip to main content Accessibility help

Generation and distribution of productivity gains in beef cattle farming: Who are the winners and losers between 1980 and 2015?

  • P. Veysset (a1), M. Lherm (a1), J. P. Boussemart (a2) and P. Natier (a2)


Surplus accounting is a method for evaluating trends in how a firm’s productivity factors (intermediate inputs, capital, land, labour) are performing and how the productivity gains are redistributed between agents in the economy. Here the surplus accounting method was applied on a database of 164 Charolais-area suckler cattle farms running from 1980 to 2015. Over this 36-year period – with differences per sub-period – the cumulative productivity surplus (PS) increased at a low rate of +0.17%/year (i.e. cumulative volume of outputs produced increased slightly more than cumulative volume of inputs used). This timid increase in PS is linked to the constant expansion in labour productivity whereas other factor productivities have shrunk. The observable period-wide macrotrends are that commercial farm businesses struggle to protect their revenues, we also observe a slight fall in input prices, land rent and financing costs, and a huge climb in direct support-policy payments. The bulk of the cumulative economic surplus has been captured downstream – 64% downstream of the cattle value chain as a drop in prices, and 22% downstream of other value chains (chiefly cereals). It emerges that the productivity gains in beef cattle farming mostly benefit the downstream value chain (packers–processors, distributors and consumers), whereas it is mainly government money backing this drop in prices of agricultural output. Here we see the principal of the 1992 ‘MacSharry’ reform at work, with a transfer from the taxpayer through direct support-policy payments through to the consumer via lower prices. The simple fact that farmers’ incomes are stagnating is a clear indication that they are net losers in this distribution of productivity gains, despite the improvement in labour factor productivity.


Corresponding author


Hide All
Ash, A, Hunt, L, McDonald, C, Scanlan, J, Bell, L, Cowley, R, Watson, I, McIvor, J and MacLeod, N 2015. Boosting the productivity and profitability of northern Australian beef enterprises: exploring innovation options using simulation modelling and systems analysis. Agricultural Systems 139, 5065.
Ball, VE, Bureau, JC, Butault, JP and Nehring, R 2001. Levels of farm sector productivity: an international comparison. Journal of Productivity Analysis 15, 529.10.1023/A:1026554306106
Ball, VE, Bureau, JC, Nehring, R and Somwaru, A 1997. Agricultural productivity revisited. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 79, 10451063.
Ball, VE, Butault, JP, Juan, CS and Mora, R 2010. Productivity and international competitiveness of agriculture in the European Union and the United States. Agricultural Economics 41, 611627.
Bojnec, S and Latruffe, L 2013. Farm size, agricultural subsidies and farm performance in Slovenia. Land Use Policy 32, 207217.
Boussemart, JP, Butault, JP and Ojo, O 2012. Generation and distribution of productivity gains in French agriculture. Who are the winners and the losers over the last fifty years? Bulletin USAMV, Horticulture 69, 5567.
Burlaud, A and Dahan, L 1985. Global productivity surplus accounts. International Journal of Accounting Education and Research 21, 159169.
Butault, JP and Réquillard, V 2012. L’agriculture et l’agroalimentaire français à la recherche d’une compétitivité perdue. INRA Sciences Sociales 4, 4.
Caves, DW, Christensen, LR and Diewert, WE 1982. Multilateral comparisons of output, input, and productivity using superlative index numbers. Economic Journal 92, 7386.
CERC 1980. Productivité globale et comptes de surplus. Documents du CERC (Centre d’Etude des Revenus et des Coûts) 55/56, 3e-4e trim., Documentation française, Paris.
Charroin, T, Veysset, P, Devienne, S, Fromont, JL, Palazon, R and Ferrand, M 2012. Labour productivity and economy in herbivore rearing: concepts, analysis and stakes. INRA Productions Animales 25, 193210.
Chatellier, V, Guyomard, H and Le Bris, K 2003. La production bovine dans l’Union européenne : entre économie de marché et politique de territoire. Déméter 2004, Ed. Armand Colin, Paris, pp. 67–177.
Christensen, LR 1975. Concepts and measurement of agricultural productivity. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 57, 910915.
Diewert, WE 2003. Index number concepts, measures and decomposition of productivity growth. Journal of Productivity Analysis 19, 127159.
Eurostat 2017. Price indices of agricultural products. Retrieved on 8 November 2017 from
Font-i-Furnols, M and Guerrero, L 2014. Consumer preference, behavior and perception about meat and meat products: an overview. Meat Science 98, 361371.
FranceAgriMer 2016. Observatoire de la formation des prix et des marges des produits alimentaires. Rapport au Parlement 2016, 262.
Gorton, M and Davidova, S 2004. Farm productivity and efficiency in the CEE applicant countries: a synthesis of results. Agricultural Economics 30, 116.10.1111/j.1574-0862.2004.tb00172.x
Keating, BA, Carberry, PS, Bindraban, PS, Asseng, S, Meinke, H and Dixon, J 2010. Eco-efficient agriculture: concepts, challenges, and opportunities. Crop Science 50, 109119.
Kendrick, JW and Sato, R 1963. Factor prices, productivity and economic growth. American Economic Review 53, 9731004.
Latruffe, L 2010. Competitiveness, productivity and efficiency in the agricultural and agri-food sectors. OECD Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Papers 30, OECD Publishing.
Latruffe, L, Balcombe, K, Davidova, S and Zawalinska, K 2005. Technical and scale efficiency of crop and livestock farms in Poland: does specialization matter? Agricultural Economics 32, 281296.
Morrison Paul, C, Nehring, R, Banker, D and Somwaru, A 2004. Scale economies and efficiency in U.S. agriculture: are traditional farms history? Journal of Productivity Analysis 22, 185205.10.1007/s11123-004-7573-1
Mosheim, R and Knox Lovell, CA 2009. Scale economies and inefficiency. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 91, 777794.
Rizov, M, Pokrivcak, J and Ciaian, P 2013. CAP subsidies and productivity of the EU farm. Journal of Agricultural Economics 64, 537557.
Soteriades, AD, Faverdin, P, Moreau, S, Charroin, T, Blanchard, M and Stott, AW 2016. An approach to holistically assess (dairy) farm eco-efficiency by combining life cycle analysis with data envelopment analysis models and methodologies. Animal 10, 18991910.
Verbeke, W, Pérez-Cueto, FJA, de Barcellos, MD, Krystallis, A and G. Grunert, KG 2010. European citizen and consumer attitudes and preferences regarding beef and pork. Meat Science 84, 284292.
Veysset, P, Benoit, M, Laignel, G, Bébin, D, Roulenc, M and Lherm, M 2014a. Analysis and determinants of the performances evolution of sheep for meat and suckler cattle farms in less favoured areas from 1990 to 2012. INRA Productions Animales 27, 4964.
Veysset, P, Lherm, M, Bébin, D, Roulenc, M and Benoit, M 2014b. Variability in greenhouse gas emissions, fossil energy consumption and farm economics in suckler beef production in 59 French farms. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 188, 180191.10.1016/j.agee.2014.03.003
Veysset, P, Lherm, M, Roulenc, M, Troquier, C and Bébin, D 2015. Productivity and technical efficiency of suckler beef production systems: trends for the period 1990 to 2012. Animal 9, 20502059.



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed