Requirements and opportunities for Precision Livestock Farming in the dairy and pork chains

To explore the opportunities and requirements associated with Precision Livestock Farming (PLF), stakeholders from the most important stages of the value chains were requested to participate in an interview in which they were confronted to the consumers’ ideas, concerns, demands and suggestions of how to implement PLF practices in the pigs and dairy cows value chains. Specifically, 45 interviews were conducted with farmers, farmer cooperatives, slaughterhouses and processors, retailers, technology providers, consultants and researchers and animal-interest groups from five European countries (Netherlands, Spain, Finland, Sweden and Italy).

The qualitative results indicate that farmers associated PLF with the opportunities to take care of every individual animal, to stay competitive on the market and to offer new sales opportunities because of an improved product segmentation. At the same time, it was indicated that integrating PLF technologies requires an increased acceptance of innovation and that the perceived benefits need to outweigh the risks.

For farmer cooperatives, PLF was expected to allow to produce sufficient quantity of meat and dairy products to satisfy the global market and that it allows to directly respond to individual animals’ needs. They also considered privacy as is a key point that needs to be taken into account.

Processors & slaughterhouses indicated the opportunity that PLF has the possibility to evaluate the entire lifetime cycle of animals. In addition, PLF can provide an approach to harmonise welfare standards and labelling across Europe. Their requirement was that PLF technologies should be non-invasive for the animals.

Retailers mentioned that PLF is an opportunity to access new market segments and to trade more transparent products. They also suggested that PLF can increase the transparency of the value chain and help to harmonise labelling approaches across the EU.

For technology providers, PLF has the capability of optimising routine processes whilst reducing the farmers’ workload. However, they warned of the requirement to have a robust and secure data (storage) system.

Consultants and researchers indicated that PLF can optimise the whole value chain, integrating innovative technology, algorithms and data management tools. The requirement that PLF has to cope with the claims of modern livestock farming was mentioned.

Finally, animal interest groups pointed that PLF has the opportunities to assure animal-friendly treatment of animals, that it facilitates the process of setting standards for animal welfare and that PLF might fosters public discussions, which may contribute to a critical evaluation of the own consumption behaviour.

Accordingly, the results of the expert interviews indicate that PLF-based market solutions should be seen as a system intervention that affects animals, consumers, value chain stakeholders and which implementation involves technological, institutional and legal aspects.

Therefore, market-based solutions developed in the ClearFarm project, should include inter alia value proposition towards consumers, measurable indicators and standards, data management and data protection measures, development of ethical and systematic decision-making approaches, connections to animal welfare labelling organisations, innovative technology integration, and should consider the impact of the system itself.