Barriers to farmer adoption of Cattle EID: Rural Policy Centre Brief

Dominic Duckett

Cattle EID adoption rates can be improved by addressing farmers’ concerns about the growing complexity of information demands associated with cattle and the increasing record-keeping burdens this places on farms. 

Key findings

  • This briefing reports the key findings of a project focusing on low adoption rates for cattle electronic identification (EID) which sought to identify underlying reasons for farmers’ reluctance’ to adopt.
  • Qualitative methods were used to gather opinion about the adoption of disease control technology in the Scottish cattle sector. Interviews were conducted with farmers in two locations; Aberdeenshire and Orkney.
  • Generalisations that farmers are ‘technology-shy’, either culturally or because of an ageing demographic, are challenged by evidence of enthusiasm for technological innovation on farms.
  • The farmers interviewed generally expressed enthusiasm for technology adoption as further demonstrated by the variety and amount of digital technology and other devices found on their farms e.g. mobile phones, computers and satellite navigation systems.
  • Livestock farmers are involved in an increasing series of information flows, having to supply data of different kinds to a range of external agencies, both to comply with statutory requirements and as a result of market pressures (see figure 1). Managing information flows is a substantial administrative burden for farmers.
  • Requirements placed on farmers to manage these increasing information flows constitute a particular shift in power for farmers from autonomy to compulsion, with farmers held accountable for information often at the risk of financial penalties for failures to maintain accurate systems.
  • There is a lack of association between cattle EID and beneficial economic returns or labour saving opportunities.
  • Messages promoting direct farmer benefits from cattle EID adoption, in terms of profit through healthier stock or through labour saving in relation to record management, are not always prominent in Scottish Government information to livestock keepers.
  • The belief that current technology is not ‘future proof’ or concerns about ‘the Betamax effect’ can deter farmers from making investments.
  • The unpopularity of the mandatory sheep EID scheme appears to deter voluntary adoption of the cattle EID scheme.
  • There is a perception that cattle EID is an additional layer of bureaucracy with no farmer benefit.
  • Measures could be taken to ‘future proof’ current farmer investment decisions reassuring them that early adoption will not be a wasted investment.
  • Messages reinforcing the epidemiological objectives of EID could be strengthened.

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