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Theoretical and methodological bases for the study of livestock farms and their relationships with the environment. Contribution of the French systems theory studies.

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Authors: A.M. Olaizola, A. Gibon
Issue: 93A-1 (17-39)
Topic: Animal Production
Keywords: bibliographical review, systems approach, livestock system, forage system, pastoral system

We have done a bibliographical review on the theoretical aspects and concepts used in the study of livestock farms and their relationships with the environment from the point of view of systems theory, and mainly French research work. These studies deal with the different sub‑systems of the farm, considered as a whole system; the concept of "practice" and "family‑farm system"; the theory of adaptive behaviour; the clinical investigation; and the general process of decision, as they apply to all aspects of farm management. The agricultural science, as well as other scientific areas, has been developed through reductionism and mechanistic analysis. Therefore, we have got a deep know ledge of agricultural processes, though, frequently other related processes were not considered, and, as a result, there is far removed from the real world. The systems theory applied to the study of livestock farms has been used more often in developing countries than in Europe, where the main objective has been to increase agricultural production. Nevertheless, developed agriculture is now searching for alternative production systems which enable sustainability and biodiversity. In this framework, the systems theory can provide a useful methodology.

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