Promoting farmer engagement and activity in the control of dairy cattle lameness

By Barker, Z. E. and Leach, K. A. and Main, D. C. J. and Whay, H. R., The Veterinary Journal, 2012
Many ‘influencers’ allied to the agricultural industry support farmers to implement management changes that affect animal welfare. Developing approaches to working with farmers that achieve both engagement and subsequently management changes is critical. As an example, the generation of action points and implementation of change to control dairy cattle lameness is reported and discussed here. Action plans were generated on farms receiving both lameness monitoring and intervention support (MS group; n = 117) as part of a 3 year intervention project. At the start of year 1, MS farmers received action planning advice from a veterinary surgeon, and then at the start of years 2 and 3, farmers generated their own lameness control action plans with facilitator support. Engagement was achieved with 114 MS farmers who generated 692 action points in total. Two hundred and sixteen of these resulted from veterinary advice and 476 were generated by the farmers with facilitator support. In terms of activity, MS farms implemented a mean of 8.22 changes per farm as compared to 6.77 on farms which only received annual lameness monitoring (MO group; n = 72). While these levels of change were similar, fewer changes implemented on the MS farms (8.5%) were judged ‘likely to increase the risk of lameness’ compared to the MO farms (16.5%). Farmers generated substantial numbers of lameness control action points for their own farms aided by a facilitator and, crucially, veterinary or facilitator involvement reduced changes that were likely to compromise lameness control.
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