The county of Sogn og Fjordane is located at the west coast of Norway. The county has huge outlying fields with big mountain areas. Compared to other counties, it is steep, has rough terrain, smaller holdings and huge grazing areas. The county has the third largest share of employment in agriculture in Norway and livestock, cattle, sheep, and in some places, goat or fruit and berries are important. Half of the land is suited for the pasture of livestock farming, where sheep is the most important. Many sheep farmers are part-time farmers with small holdings. For some, the farm is more like a hobby and farmer are not necessarily as focused on the production because they are busy with their main job.
This case was chosen because it combines cooperation of land management and introduction of a new technology. Electronic bells (e-bells) are involving a rather new technology that is still not fully developed. It has the potential to contribute to increasing the sustainable use of outfield resources in sheep production.Study focus
The study focuses on implementing a new technology, electronic bells, that makes it possible to trace sheep during the pasture season. Some sheep farmers experienced big losses in 2009 because of predators, and therefore the county administration started as part of a project to offer sheep farmers’ electronic bells at a subsidized price.
They wanted farmers to test if bells could contribute in reducing the loss of animals. Sheep farmers in the region use large outfield pastures that they own or have the right to use together with other farmers. They were organized in pasture groups many years ago, where they cooperate in collecting the sheep in the autumn. When the county started to offer e-bells, it was required that only formalized pasture groups could apply for support on behalf of its members. In total 21 interviews were conducted with sheep farmers in Sogn og Fjordane, 19 of which were adopters and only two were non-adopters. In addition, five AKIS expert interviews were conducted.
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Gunn-Turid Kvam, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ruralis – Institute for Rural and Regional Research
1. Small high-tech companies are the formal advisors. The interest organization, the Norwegian goat and sheep (NSG) and Nortura, the meat cooperative, were initially active in sheep farmers meeting to tell about the e-bells and sometimes they invited the high-tech companies to present the technology. The two small high-tech companies are the formal advisors in the assessment and implementation stage, but not many farmers used them for advice. Some sheep farmers complained about the availability. The reason may be that the companies are small and resources for advisory are limited. Additionally, the companies are located far away from the region, and it seems to be a challenge for the means of giving advice.
2. Mainly farmers advice each other. Results show that mainly farmers advice each other through the organization NSG and the local pasture groups in the assessment and implementation phase. Often there was one person in the pasture group that supported others in preparing the bells for the season and gave advice. This person usually had some contact with the high-tech company on behalf of himself and others. However, some adopters contact the technology company during implementation directly when others manage implementation on their own.
3. Economic challenges for the main advisory organization. Adopters of e-bells use the same advisors in sheep farming as non-adopters. Their micro-AKIS represents the traditional advisory organizations, but some claim that there is little advice in general in sheep production. Economic challenges for the main advisory organization, Nortura, and thus less resources for advice, is reported as a challenge for sheep farmers in the region.
4. Price of the bells – not economically sustainable to invest. The main reason why some farmers do not use electronic bells seems to be the price of the bells, it is not economically sustainable to invest, and no farmers use bells on the entire herd. Other reasons are that their outfield areas are less challenging or that farmers are very old and not interested in data.
5. The diffusion of the technology has been successful. Many sheep farmers in the region use e-bells so it is possible to say that the diffusion of the technology has been successful. Sheep farmers find the bells useful because they save time in looking after the sheep, and they learn a lot about where sheep move during a pasture season. For some farmers, the implementation of e-bells has increased the contact with participants in the pasture group; they have a new activity for cooperation and discussion.