Precision breeding is a set of techniques that combines various innovative digital tools: sensors (movements, temperature), detectors (cameras, microphones), management technologies and robot for precise and continuous animal production system control. Their applications are multiple: optimizing the production system’s technical and economic performances, improving the farmer’s working conditions (automated milking, heat detection, …), reducing their isolation (communication applications, …), promoting animal welfare (stress detection, health problems …), reducing the livestock’s environmental impact (limited inputs: food, veterinary products…).
The techniques involve :
- Automatic detection instruments for parameters that are hard to detect (calving, health problems).
- Automated machines to lighten the farmer’s quantitative workload and reduce the arduousness of binding tasks (concentrate feeders, milking robots …).
- Digital communication and management tools that enable the farmer to make tactical and strategic decisions. Their applications cover the components of livestock management (feed, reproduction, health status, financial management, …)
The precision farming for agroecology issue is still controversial. For some, it contributes to ‘weak’ greening by focusing on the optimization and reduction of chemical inputs. For others, it meets the challenges of ‘strong’ greening by helping substitute chemical inputs by ecosystem services. The effects on the breeder’s working conditions are variable and controversial : depending on the tools, farm and use, precision breeding is sometimes considered as a lever of emancipation or as an erosion of the breeder’s technical autonomy and decision-making. What is certain is that precision breeding transforms the breeder’s relations with his animals, partners and the sociotechnical system.
References to explore
Morgan-Davies C., Lambe NR., Wishart H., Waterhouse A., Kenyon F., McBean D., McCracken DI. 2017. Impacts of using a precision livestock system targeted approach in mountain sheep flocks. LivestockScience, 208, 67 – 76. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.livsci.2017.12.002