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Precision livestock farming: which consequences for farmers’ work?

INRA Prod Anim 27(2) 113-122

N. HOSTIOU¹ ,²,³,⁴ , C. ALLAIN⁵, S. CHAUVAT⁶, A. TURLOT⁷, C. PINEAU⁸, J. FAGON⁹

1 INRA, UMR1273 Métafort, F-63122 Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France
2 AgroParisTech, UMR1273 Métafort, F-63170 Aubière, France
3 Clermont Université, VetAgro Sup, UMR1273 Métafort, F-63370 Lempdes, France
4 Irstea, UMR1273 Métafort, F-63170 Aubière, France
5 Institut de l’Elevage, BP 85225, F-35652 Le Rheu, France
6 Institut de l’Elevage, SupAgro, F-34060 Montpellier, France
7 Centre Wallon de Recherches Agronomiques, B-5030 Gembloux, Belgique
8 Chambre d’Agriculture de la Sarthe, F-72100 Le Mans, France
9 Institut de l’Elevage, F-31321 Castanet-Tolosan, France

Abstract

Automation and electronization in livestock farms have become more and more important in recent years in many countries, giving rise to what is called Precision Livestock Farming (PLF). The large deployment of sensors and advanced technologies, originated from the industry, meets the current economic, structural and social constraints of farms. PLF is developing in different animal sectors to facilitate the monitoring of herds due to the increase of herd size and the decrease of workforce availability. Reducing the hardness of repetitive tasks seems to be also a factor of adoption of these new technologies. This review focuses on the impact of PLF on farmers’ profession and organization of their work. Time savings are observed due to the introduction of robots and sensors in farms because they replace recurrent physical tasks (milking, feeding) while simplifying the monitoring of animals. Other dimensions of work are impacted by PLF such as work flexibility and new schedules. The information provided may reduce the mental workload informing the interventions required (optimal moment for insemination, detection of health problems to anticipate the curative action). However, PLF also creates new tasks such as maintenance and monitoring equipment, interpretation of data provided by these tools. Thus, the mental workload can sometimes be increased due to the complexity of the information to manage the multiple alarms or alerts. The relationship between the farmer and his animals are also modified. The impact of PLF on farmers’ work leads positive aspects and can be attractive for young people. But work consequences can also be sources of failure if they are not adapted to the needs and skills of farmers. It is therefore essential to take into account farmers’ work, and its different dimensions, to promote the adoption of these new technologies.

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