Northeast Thailand, a large plateau of relatively infertile soils, is an area of traditional beef cattle farming. The region has undergone a rapid process of physical, social and economic change in the past forty years. Clearing of forests during this period and the development of new infrastructure, particularly roading, has increased the level of human settlement and opened new agricultural areas for cropping. Agricultural growth has been maintained by opening up new land areas, increasing the production of rice, the predominant crop and diversifying into new commodity crops such as cassava and kenaf. While agricultural growth has been substantial during this period, industrial growth has been higher. Increasingly, many farm families from the Northeast now work for part of the year in urban employment often temporarily migrating to Bangkok, the centre of industrial activity. The government has sought to diversify agricultural production away from rice and other commodity crops towards more intensive and high value agricultural activities. One focus of diversification activity has been in the promotion of beef cattle farming to meet increasing demand for beef from urban consumers. This thesis reviews some of the several projects which have been implemented to do so and the socioeconomic context within which they have occurred. Detailed research was carried out in six villages in Northeast Thailand during the period 1993-1995 with a follow up visit in June and July 1997. Changing patterns of land use, social and economic conditions have altered the way in which cattle are farmed. Cattle now have less access to common grazing land and are farmed as an adjunct to cropping activities. Their ability to utilise crop by-products and act as a store of future income are seen as important by farmers. Two critical issues were identified that have relevance to this region and elsewhere. The first is the identification of the appropriate role of beef cattle within agriculture and within local and national systems of development. The second is the development of structures to assist both farmers and governments to meet their objectives. Within these two issues the ways in which resources, technology, culture, and institutions interact and are modified as a result of the process of change is extremely important to the success of development initiatives.