UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Employee Management and Animal Care: A Comparative Ethnography of Two Large-Scale Dairy Farms in China Chen, Maria; von Keyserlingk, Marina A. G.; Magliocco, Sabina; Weary, Daniel M.


Farm management can directly and indirectly affect animal care. We explored how farm management affected animal care on two large dairy farms in China (anonymized as Farm A and Farm B). We used a mini-ethnographic case study design whereby the first author lived for 38 days on Farm A and 23 days on Farm B. She conducted participant observation and ethnographic interviews with farm staff positions within five departments in Farm A and six departments in Farm B. In addition, she conducted 13 semi-structured interviews (seven on Farm A; six on Farm B). We used template analysis to generate key themes. On both farms, workers believed that animal care practices had improved over time, due to three key employee management factors: 1) organizational culture, 2) competency of worker and management, and 3) an effective incentive system. Our results suggest that animal care may be improved in this context by: 1) promoting a culture in which workers have ‘grit’ and are eager to learn, 2) ensuring basic worker wellbeing, and 3) using animal care outcomes as performance indicators linked to pay.

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