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Simplification of livestock management: an analysis of simplified practices developed in herbivore and grain-fed production systems

INRA Prod Anim 25(2) 127-140

N. HOSTIOU¹, ², ³, ⁴, J. FAGON⁵

1 INRA, UMR1273 Métafort, F-63122 Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France

2 AgroParisTech, UMR Métafort, BP 90054, F-63172, Aubière, France

3 Irstea, UMR Métafort, BP 50085, F-63172 Aubière, France

4 Clermont Université,VetAgro Sup, UMR Métafort, BP 35, F-63370 Lempdes, France

5 Institut de l’Elevage, Département Actions Régionales, Chemin de Borde Rouge, F-31321 Castanet-Tolosan, France


For many years, the preoccupations of livestock farmers and the professional world have been focused on questions about work. Simplifying livestock management is one way to resolve the work problems of livestock farmers. Our article has sought to emphasize the simplified practices presently under discussion in herbivores and grain-fed production systems as well as to define the notion of "simplification". This notion is subjective; it varies with each and every personality and covers several meanings (reducing the working time, making the work less arduous, organizing it in a different way...). A survey was carried out with experts from different animal productions along with bibliographical research, in order to characterize simplified practices (their nature, their effects on work, the supply chains concerned…). Various features of the livestock system can be simplified because of their heavy workloads: feeding, reproduction and milking. Simplified practices are very closely studied in herbivore livestock farming to enable the farmers to have some respite from routine work, to manage the competition between activities, or even reserve time for personal and family activities. For farms with grain-fed stock, powerful vertical integration is accompanied by standards tending towards optimal technical and economic rationality of the unit and leaves little room for simplification. "Restructuring the workforce" and "automation equipment" are the main levers mobilized in such livestock farms. Questions are raised as to the role that will be played by the "simplification of practices" lever for the livestock farms of tomorrow, i.e. farms that are competitive and profitable, environmentally-friendly and meeting the expectations of the farmers. The flexibility offered by simplified practices that are often reversible will prove to be an essential lever in ensuring that livestock farms have the necessary capacities to adapt to an increasingly uncertain context.