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Exploring strategies to enhance farm animal welfare with Digital Livestock Technologies

Schillings, J. (2023) Exploring strategies to enhance farm animal welfare with Digital Livestock Technologies. PhD thesis, University of Reading

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To link to this item DOI: 10.48683/1926.00112298


Digital Livestock Technologies (DLTs) are considered a key solution in responding to animal welfare concerns by facilitating livestock monitoring and management. However, the impacts of DLTs on animal welfare are unclear, and their use raises social and ethical concerns. This study was designed to explore the extent to which DLTs can help end-users enhance animal welfare, and how their uptake can be promoted whilst minimising negative consequences. Two case studies were used to explore the experiences of end-users and other stakeholders involved in trialling DLTs with semi-structured, in-depth interviews (N=31). A survey (N=145) and a workshop were used to complement the findings. Results highlighted the important potential of current DLTs to address most dimensions of animal welfare. However, their ability to promote positive affective states remained limited. Whether these important dimensions will be considered in management decisions may depend on DLTs’ ability to act as boundary objects: facilitating stakeholder communication and co-learning, and a re-framing of end-users’ values and beliefs. Findings also suggested the importance of considering the challenges of technology implementation. When used in farm assurance schemes, DLTs could help improve the consistency of data collection; increasing consumer trust and fairness between farmers. However, farmers also expressed concerns over data ownership, reliability, and use. Whilst some of these concerns can be identified and addressed during participatory approaches, challenges such as technology failures, lack of communication, or inadequate training, can also create frustration and impact end-users’ engagement in these processes. Enhancing animal welfare with DLTs is therefore not straightforward. Greater attention should be paid to the type of DLTs used and their ability to promote learning and changed management practices. The focus should also be on building trusting relationships between stakeholders, and on whether end-users’ concerns will be addressed through more efficient collaboration with relevant stakeholders involved in DLT development.

Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Thesis Supervisor:Rose, D. and Bennett, R.
Thesis/Report Department:School of Agriculture, Policy & Development
Identification Number/DOI:
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Agriculture, Policy and Development
ID Code:112298


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