Drivers for precision livestock technology adoption: A study of factors associated with adoption of electronic identification technology by commercial sheep farmers in England and Wales

Eliana Lima , Thomas Hopkins, Emma Gurney, *Orla Shortall, Fiona Lovatt, Peers Davies, George Williamson, Jasmeet Kaler

Funding for this research was provided by Innovate UK. EPIC scientist, *Orla Shortall contributed to this work.

The UK is the largest lamb meat producer in Europe. However, the low profitability of sheep farming sector suggests production efficiency could be improved. Although the use of technologies such as Electronic Identification (EID) tools could allow a better use of flock resources, anecdotal evidence suggests they are not widely used. The aim of this study was to assess uptake of EID technology, and explore drivers and barriers of adoption of related tools among English and Welsh farmers. Farm beliefs and management practices associated with adoption of this technology were investigated. A total of 2000 questionnaires were sent, with a response rate of 22%. Among the respondents, 87 had adopted EID tools for recording flock information, 97 intended to adopt it in the future, and 222 neither had adopted it, neither intended to adopt it. Exploratory factor analysis (EFA) and multivariable logistic regression modelling were used to identify farmer beliefs and management practices significantly associated with adoption of EID technology. EFA identified three factors expressing farmer’s beliefs–external pressure and negative feelings, usefulness and practicality. Our results suggest farmer’s beliefs play a significant role in technology uptake. Non-adopters were more likely than adopters to believe that ‘government pressurise farmers to adopt technology’. In contrast, adopters were significantly more likely than non-adopters to see EID as practical and useful (p≤0.05). Farmers with higher information technologies literacy and intending to intensify production in the future were significantly more likely to adopt EID technology (p≤0.05). Importantly, flocks managed with EID tools had significantly lower farmer- reported flock lameness levels (p≤0.05). These findings bring insights on the dynamics of adoption of EID tools. Communicating evidence of the positive effects EID tools on flock performance and strengthening farmer’s capability in use of technology are likely to enhance the uptake of this technology in sheep farms.

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