This paper empirically identifies differences between dairy farmers in their perception of opportunities for farm development. The construct ‘perceived Room for Manoeuvre’ (pRfM) is used which is defined as: ‘the opportunities perceived as viable in order to obtain a (substantial part of) business income’. A unique case study of 79 dairy farmers operating in a highly comparable socio-material context at the level of the case study allows for an empirical analysis of differences in the pRfM using a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods exploratory research, a questionnaire and in-depth interviews with stakeholders in farm development. Differences in the pRfM will likely affect the early phase of strategic decision making and consequently explain heterogeneity in farm development. Data analysis revealed the following three dimensions of pRfM: perception of the opportunity (1) to diversify; (2) to end production; and (3) to maximise production. These dimensions proved useful to explain heterogeneity in farm development and thus showed the importance of a subjective approach towards opportunity identification in farm development. This paper shows the need to view the farmer as entrepreneurial actor in the process of strategic decision making who interacts with the socio-material context of the farm.