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Animal health strategies in organic and conventional meat sheep production

NICOURT, C. ; BENOIT, M. ; LAIGNEL, G. and CABARET, J. (2009) Animal health strategies in organic and conventional meat sheep production. [Approches sanitaires comparées d’éleveurs ovins allaitants biologiques et conventionnels.] Carrefours de l'Innovation Agronomique, 4, pp. 49-60.

[thumbnail of 9-Nicourt.pdf] PDF - English

Document available online at: http://www.inra.fr/ciag/revue_innovations_agronomiques/volume_4_janvier_2009


Sixteen meat sheep farms (nine conventional and seven organic) in the centre of France were surveyed to evaluate their economic and production performances (previous interviews) and their strategies related to animal health with particular attention to internal parasites (present interview on health strategies). The organic farms were surveyed in mid-September 2006 and the conventional ones in October 2007. Each interview (1½ or 2 h) included a visit of the farm (with the collection of faeces for evaluation of internal parasites), followed by an open discussion on sheep production and health problems, and parasitic infections, in particular. The discussion was recorded and then transcribed into a word processor file and analysed. The farmers agreed on the fragile health of their animals (with special attention to internal parasites)and were confronted with the low value of each lamb or ewe, which does not allow for high health costs. Even under this limited economic situation, the farmers developed different health strategies. Conventional farmers rely on systematic treatments to prevent parasitic infection; they use low-cost effective synthetic drugs and accept lamb mortality rates ranging from five to eight percent. Their practices are homogeneous, which is possibly due to frequent exchanges with colleagues or veterinarians. The healthcare strategy of organic farmers may be divided into two distinct categories: autonomous (“self-made farmer”) and “creative”. The organic self-made farmers are experienced and aim at a sustainable flock (“cruiser flock”). The creative ones do not seem to easily handle the health strategy aspect and often spend more money on healthcare than their conventional or organic self-made colleagues. Health strategy is therefore not completely dependent on the type of production - conventional versus organic - but on the farmer’s conception of life and nature.
The creative farmers believe that disease is a dysfunction that may be corrected with treatments
(conventional or alternative ones), whereas the self-made farmers consider health as the result of a
dynamic equilibrium between the many forces that interact within a flock. The latter is somewhat similar
to the idea put forth in the book “The normal and the pathological” by Canguilhem.

Summary translation

Pourquoi certains éleveurs en conduite biologique ont des dépenses sanitaires faibles, ce qui semble en accord avec les orientations de l’agriculture biologique, quand d’autres dépensent plus que ceux en élevage conventionnel ? L’hypothèse que nous soutiendrons est que se manifestent ainsi des conceptions de la santé et de la signification sociale des soins aux animaux différentes, qui transcendent la distinction entre élevage conventionnel et biologique. Face à l’homogénéité des stratégies sanitaires des éleveurs conventionnels, nous montrerons que ceux en conduite biologique se distinguent en deux catégories que nous qualifions, à partir des récits des éleveurs, d’autonomes et de créatifs. Celles-ci renvoient à deux conceptions de la santé, qui doit être accompagnée pour les uns et faire l’objet de corrections pour les autres, et qui traduisent celle de leur rapport à la Nature.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:sheep; livestock; labour; health; treatment; parasitism; anthropo-philosophy; organic farming.
Subjects: Animal husbandry > Production systems > Sheep and goats
Animal husbandry > Health and welfare
Research affiliation: France > INRA - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique
Related Links:http://www1.montpellier.inra.fr/dinabio/
Deposited By: PENVERN, Servane
ID Code:15464
Deposited On:27 Feb 2009
Last Modified:12 Apr 2010 07:39
Document Language:French/Francais
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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