Petit T., Sigwalt A., Martel G., Couvreur S., 2022 – The Place of Grasslands in Cattle Farmers’ Perceptions of Forage Production: Useful Insights of 10 Years of Empirical Research on Grasslands. Sustainability 2022, 14, 12309. https://doi.org/10.3390/su141912309
By summarizing research projects performed over the past 10 years on grasslands in cattle production, we seek to understand the way of farming with grassland and cattle farmers’ way of thinking about it. Based on the combined perspective of sociologists and animal scientists, the cross-analysis we realized reveals that the local context is the main element necessary to understand grassland management practices on livestock farms. Many groups of drivers influence how farmers develop their perceptions about forage services, think about forage production and practice it (i.e., “forage rationales”): (i) soil and climate conditions, (ii) professional network and (iii) existence of networks bringing together farmers and other stakeholders to discuss grassland issues. From the diversity of production contexts, we reveal different perceptions that livestock farmers have about the services that grasslands provide mainly at farm scale: animal production, economic, agronomic, ecological and environmental. The structuring of these perceptions outlines an array of forage rationales in which grasslands have a relatively central place in cattle production. Finally, we show that the farmer’s rationale can evolve over time due to debates with peers and non-agricultural stakeholders. This leads us to discuss how evolution of livestock farmers’ grassland rationales and practices can be supported, and finally to formulate recommendations for maintaining grasslands.
Keywords: grassland; sustainability; cattle farming; farmers’ perception; forage systems; forage rationales