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Science, disease and dairy production in Britain, c. 1927 to 1980

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This article sheds new light on the relationship between scientific research and livestock production through a case study of the dairy cow disease, mastitis. Despite intensive scientific research, the prevalence of this widespread, costly problem barely changed in the period c.1927–80. Analysis of three successive framings of mastitis within the broader context of agricultural change suggests that this outcome did not reflect the failure of research, but rather its partial success. Throughout, scientists approached mastitis as a problem of production rather than health. In helping to control one form of mastitis, their investigations facilitated the adoption of more intensive farming methods, which increased milk output while encouraging the emergence of a different form of the disease. This process illustrates the co-construction of cattle health, scientific research and milk production practices. It also shows how productivist agricultural agendas and the practicalities of scientific investigation moulded the conduct of research and its effects on production.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2014

More about this publication?
  • Agricultural History Review is the leading journal for the publication of original research in all aspects of agricultural and rural history. First published in 1953, the Review reflects the diversity of approaches which are possible in rural history. Its editors welcome submissions in any aspect of the history of agriculture, rural society and rural economy over the past millennium. Whilst it is not concerned with current policy debates, it is interested in considering discussions of the historical dimensions of current problems in rural society and food supply. The Review is especially strong in British rural history, but actively seeks submissions in European and American rural history and has no bar on submissions concerning the remainder of the world. It is also the journal of record for book reviews in the discipline.

    Agricultural History Review has an international editorial board. The current editors are Professor P. S. Warde, University of Cambridge, UK, who is responsible for articles, and Dr J. E. Morgan, University of Bristol, UK, who serves as editor for book reviews. The Review is fully peer-refereed.

    Agricultural History Review is published by the British Agricultural History Society from whom personal subscriptions may be obtained.
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