Moovin’ on Up

Think tank: Social Market Foundation

Author(s): Linus Pardoe; Aveek Bhattacharya

October 18, 2022

This report from UK think tank the SMF looks at how we can use new technologies to improve productivity on Britain’s livestock farms.

The post-Brexit era presents Britain with fresh opportunities to address low productivity in the farming industry with a clearer policy direction and the promotion of efficiency-enhancing schemes for agriculture and livestock farming. As such, using precision farming methods can offer a promising route to more efficient, data-driven farming – illustrated by productivity gains in other countries such as Australia – leading to a range of benefits to labour productivity, and animal health and welfare and indirect benefits to the environment. Problematically, uptake of precision technologies and methods remains low. For this report, we conducted interviews with livestock farmers and industry experts, in order to understand the benefits to farmers of using PLF technologies, and how barriers to greater adoption might be overcome. Our key findings were that farmers overall are open to using them but feel unable to exploit the full benefits of the technology, primarily due to policy uncertainty around funding streams.

We recommend five ways in which policymakers and the sector can promote the use of precision technology:

  1. Improve funding incentives: the SMF recommends that farming subsidies should be reoriented towards supporting investment in such technologies.
  2. Facilitate better knowledge exchange: a new What Works Centre for agriculture must be established with government support within the next 12 months.
  3. 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
  4. 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 5. Rejuvenate farm management: make farming more attractive as a career to younger people, including reviewing generosity and eligibility criteria of young farmer payments