Farmers influence animal welfare


Identifying whether farmers beliefs, attitudes and personality are associated with uptake of new practices to improve animal health and welfare is key to successful knowledge exchange. We investigated farmers’ attitudes, beliefs, emotions and personality and their management of footrot (FR) in sheep. In recent years several new evidence-based managements have been identified that are different from traditional approaches.

A questionnaire was sent to 4000 sheep farmers in England. Farmers were asked about lameness in their flock and their barriers to treating footrot, opinions and knowledge of footrot, how they related to other people and their personality. Latent class (LC) analysis was used to subgroup farmers based on nine managements of FR.

Thirty two per cent of farmers completed the questionnaire; 97% reported having lame sheep with an average 3.7% lame at any one time.

There were three groups of farmers, 11% practised best practice, 57% were using some aspects of best practice and 32% were using traditional approaches to manage footrot. The average prevalence of lameness was 2.95%, 3.60% and 4.10% in the three groups respectively. All three groups were different from each other in attitudes, barriers, knowledge, emotions and personality. We hypothesise that different knowledge exchange approaches might be necessary to encourage different types of farmer to change management of footrot. Further understanding of how personality and emotions influence change in behaviour might be key to increasing uptake of new information.

This project was funded by Defra.