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Driving factors behind subjective resilience on organic dairy sheep farms

Augustine Perrin, Université de Toulouse, INRAE, UMR AGIR, F-31320, Castanet-Tolosan, France
Guillaume Martin, Université de Toulouse, INRAE, UMR AGIR, F-31320, Castanet-Tolosan, France


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Organic sheep milk production under a protected designation of origin for Roquefort cheese in Aveyron, France, has developed over the past several years. This niche market provides farmers with a favorable economic context due to high and stable milk prices. However, a variety of risks threatens this favorable context. This raises questions about driving factors behind resilience of organic dairy sheep farms. Unlike previous studies, we assessed the subjective resilience of farms from the perspective of farmers. We assumed that the maintenance or improvement of farmers' satisfaction over time, despite a variety of disturbances, demonstrates the ability of farms to maintain their productive functions without undermining natural resources, while ensuring fair income and good working conditions. Based on analytical frameworks from research on livestock farming systems and social-ecological resilience, we aimed to understand the combined evolution of farm structure, farming practices, and farmers' satisfaction to identify the driving factors behind subjective resilience on organic dairy sheep farms. We observed a general trend for an increase in farm size. We also used sparse partial least squares analysis to relate changes in farmer satisfaction to changes in farm structure and farming practices. On the 36 organic dairy sheep farms studied, increasing ewe productivity was the main driving factor improving subjective farm resilience in a context of high milk prices. An increase in ewe productivity was often associated with high rates of feed concentrate distribution and a sharp decrease in grazing duration on a few farms. The change in farming practices resulting from this productivity paradigm highlighted a trend toward the conventionalization of organic sheep milk production. Underlying principles of this conventionalization were sometimes at odds with resilience factors of social-ecological systems reported in the literature. This calls for caution when using farmers' satisfaction as a proxy of farm resilience and suggests combining subjective assessment with more objective approaches.

Key words

conventionalization; farmer satisfaction; farm management; organic dairy; sheep farm; subjective resilience

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087