British livestock farming has long suffered from low productivity. The post-Brexit era presents an opportunity to promote more productivity-enhancing schemes and clearer policy direction. This report looks to understand the benefits to farmers of using technologies such as precision farming, and how barriers to greater adoption might be overcome.
Key findings from in-depth interviews with livestock farmers:
- On the whole, farmers are open to using new technology and recognise its benefits – especially younger farmers, and those already using some technology – but there are barriers to be overcome.
- Investment decisions are most likely to be driven by evidence from trusted, local sources – such as ‘over the gate’ advice and from farming media
- Cost and policy uncertainty about the future of farming is holding back investment in technology – waiting and delaying investments has become relatively attractive.
We recommend five ways in which policymakers and the sector can promote the use of precision technology – such as electronic ID tags, smart weighing systems, GPS collars and farm management app:
- Improve funding incentives: the SMF recommends that farming subsidies should be reoriented towards supporting investment in such technologies.
- Facilitate better knowledge exchange: a new What Works Centre for agriculture must be established with government support within the next 12 months.
- Create better data sharing infrastructure: the Livestock Information Service is a welcome step, but more needs to be done to make sure that farmers are able to actively make use of data to improve decision-making
- Use regulation to promote change: for instance, requiring electronic IDs for cattle is a move that has improved the use of technology in other countries
- Rejuvenate farm management: make farming more attractive as a career to younger people, including reviewing generosity and eligibility criteria of young farmer payments