Out of the reach of cattle? animal subjectivities shaping the electrical cultures of British livestock farming in the second half of the 20th century

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Abstract

This paper explores the use of electricity in 20th-century British farming, as captured in the agricultural press, advisory literature, films and specialist publications intended for the farming community. Through the lens of livestock management, the article addresses the ways in which non-human animal physiologies and subjectivities were implicated in the emerging energy landscapes of the post-war British countryside. Land value at the time was framed by an emphasis on sector-wide efficiency gains, and drivers for increased productivity. By taking electric fencing within dairy production after the Agriculture Act (1947) as a case study, the article refocuses electrical history to consider non-human animal impacts on energy transformations. It argues, firstly, that in Britain during the 1940s-80s energy decisions impacting on the managed spaces of the farm were caught up in the experiences of livestock, and, secondly, that the energy decisions that moulded the spacialities of agricultural practice in this period were shaped by livestock’s responses to that experience.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Energy History Revue d'Histoire de ''Energie
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2023

Keywords

  • electricity
  • livestock
  • electric fence
  • pasture

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