Access the latest research publications from the FIELD team here. Each paper is accompanied with a summary and key points for quick reference.

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FIELD began in 2018. The following papers include a mix of FIELD project and previous relevant publications by members of the team.

Modelling disease

Past disease experience and attitudes to disease

This paper explores the relationship between past disease experience and current attitudes to disease avoidance using a mathematical "game theory" model. It starts by introducing a game in which players take the role of a farmer buying and selling cattle while trying to avoid disease. In each turn of the game, players must decide how much disease risk they are willing to accept. Exploring what would happen if all players base their decisions on past experience, we found that a farm's historical record of disease, and the health status of neighbouring farms, are significant factors determining their long-term ability to keep incidence low.

Read more here: Modelling disease related behaviours based on past experience

Farm labour

Changing shape of post-war British agriculture

This paper explores farm labour in post-Second World War British agriculture, in particular how post-war specialisation and standardisation impacted farm workers, and how farm labour was conceptualised. Changing policy, and a shift towards more commercial and mechanised farms led to two concepts of farm labour. The first as work/input efficient, quantifiable in standard man days. The second a continuing sense of stockmanship as skilled ‘labour’ as something qualitative, as a physical skill and as knowledge gained through education. Also as the vernacular knowledge of experience, expressed through practice and embodied in the relationship with the animals cared for (not just use of new technologies).

Read more here: The changing landscape of labour

The public and farm animal welfare

A historical view of public perceptions

This paper looks at Ruth Harrison’s Animal Machines (1964), its serialisation in the press, the public and farming response to it as represented in the wider broadcast and print media and farming press. Its focus is on poultry/egg production as battery hens became the ‘poster’ animals for welfare issues. It includes the ongoing discussion of the ‘best’ ways to produce eggs, the Five Freedoms, and broader issues of farm animal welfare.

Read more here: Animal machines: the public response to intensification

Public perceptions of farm animal welfare

This paper reports on the results of a systematic search of the literature to establish what the public think about farm animal welfare. The results indicate that the public have concerns over more modern and intensive animal production systems, which were thought to breach to two core components of good welfare: humane treatment and naturalness.

Read more here: Public attitudes to farm animal welfare

Are the public willing to pay for higher welfare?

This paper uses a systematic search of the literature to find out what members of the public are willing to pay for animal products produced to higher than minimum welfare standards. The findings show that the public would pay a small premium for higher welfare products, although this varied by animal type and across different population groups.

Read more here: Willingness to pay for farm animal welfare

Expertise exchange

This paper is about the connections and relationships between farmers and advisors, and between different advisors. It introduces the concept of inter-professional expertise, exploring the way expert advisers to farmers perform, act and interact in rural land and livestock management. Drawing upon empirical research including in-depth interviews with farmers and advisers and ethnographic observation of advisory encounters, this paper argues that increasingly the achievement of private and public objectives for rural businesses depends upon the integration of a variety of specialised expert inputs. So, alongside pressures to differentiate the specialised knowledge they provide, rural professionals face demands to work together to help clients solve complex problems and deliver multiple objectives. This paper explores some of the opportunities and tensions arising from this.

Read more here: Performing inter-professional expertise

Methodological approaches

Capturing human-animal relations

This is a methodological paper which arose out of a project on robotic milking technologies and explores ways of ‘capturing’ animal agency and ways of thinking about how animals might play a part in non-human social scientific research. We compared using video, still photography and written notes to record cow-robot interaction. The paper acknowledges that these attempts to include animal ‘participation’ in research is problematic on a number of fronts.

Read more here: Visualising human-animal technology relations

Perspectives of disease

A history of mastitis

This article documents the shifting biological identity of bovine mastitis through the mid-20th century, from a disease caused primarily by Str Agalactiae to Staph Aureus to coliform bacteria, and scientists’ multiple attempts to
investigate and control it, within the wider context of agricultural change. It draws on articles published in the veterinary press, and the papers of Agricultural Research Council committees concerned with the disease. It argues that the continuing presence of mastitis did not represent the failure of scientific research but rather its success, as in helping to control one form of the disease. Investigations facilitated the adoption of more intensive farming methods, which increased milk output while encouraging the emergence of a different disease type. It also demonstrates that throughout, scientists framed mastitis as a problem of bacteria rather than flawed production systems, and focused their energies on tracking and developing universal solutions for the germs responsible.

Read more here: Science, disease and dairy production

A historic case of foot and mouth disease

This article highlights focuses on the manor of Prees in north Shropshire and the attempts of the manor court to regulate the spread of animal disease locally. More specifically, the use of a sixteenth-century by-law (or pain) to control the pasturing of diseased livestock on commons.

Read more here (pages 6-7): A historic case of foot and mouth disease