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Farmers’ representations of the effects of precision livestock farming on human-animal relationships

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Florence Kling-Eveillard et al., Livestock Science, 2020, volume 238, août, 9 pages

Precision livestock farming affects the nature and frequency of farmers’ daily tasks, specifically in relation to animals. It consequently may modify how farmers consider their animals, the quality of the human-animal relationship and animal welfare. To better understand how new technologies impact human-animal relationships on the farm, a survey was carried out on 25 livestock farms in France. The farms raised dairy cows, gestating sows or broiler chickens using different equipment (sensors associated or not with robots). A qualitative thematic analysis to better identify farmers’ views on the different topics, and secondly a statistical analysis to identify if farmer profiles exist and to better understand the diversity of views were conducted. Most of the farmers expressed satisfaction about working with the new technology because their work becomes easier and allows more control over the management of the animals. Using PLF, the farmers describe a profession that has not fundamentally changed but which involves new tasks, new skills and daily schedules. Three farmers’ profiles were identified. Profile A farmers consider that one cannot talk about a human-animal relationship on their farm, and do not enjoy either touching or talking to their animals. Profile B farmers associate a good human-animal relationship with the animals’ welfare. Profile C is characterized by the central place occupied by animals and associate a good human-animal relationship with an absence of fear on the part of the animals. Farmers motivated by animals (profile C) find in precision livestock farming benefits related to animals, while the others (profiles A and B) find technical benefits detached from the animals. The farmers have room to manoeuvre in how they use the equipment; this can be seen for instance in the degree to which tasks are delegated to the equipment, which can be partial or total. Nevertheless, some farmers expressed concerns regarding the place of the new technologies on the farm, such as the risk of losing their own autonomy or their ability to observe animals and detect problems. Complementary studies could monitor these developments and contribute elements on the role of PLF in the sustainability of livestock farms.