Associations between sheep farmer attitudes, beliefs, emotions and personality, and their barriers to uptake of best practice: The example of footrot

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Abstract

There is interest in understanding how farmers’ behaviour influences their management of livestock. We extend the theory of planned behaviour with farmers attitudes, beliefs, emotions and personality to investigate how these are associated with management of livestock disease using the example of footrot (FR) in sheep. In May 2013 a one-year retrospective questionnaire was sent to 4000 sheep farmers in England, requesting data on lameness prevalence, management of footrot, farm/flock descriptors, and farmer-orientated themes: barriers to treating footrot, opinions and knowledge of footrot, relating to other people and personality. Principal component analysis (PCA) was used to make composite variables from explanatory variables and latent class (LC) analysis was used to subgroup farmers, based on nine managements of FR. Associations between LC and composite variables were investigated using multinomial logistic regression. Negative binomial regression was used to investigate associations between the proportion of lame sheep and composite and personality variables. The useable response rate was 32% and 97% of farmers reported having lame sheep; the geometric mean prevalence of lameness (GMPL) was 3.7% (95% CI 3.51%–3.86%). Participants grouped into three latent classes; LC1 (best practice—treat FR within 3 days of sheep becoming lame; use injectable and topical antibiotics; avoid foot trimming), 11% farmers), LC2 (slow to act, 57%) and LC3 (slow to act, delayed culling, 32%), with GMPL 2.95%, 3.60% and 4.10% respectively. Farmers who reported the production cycle as a barrier to treating sheep with FR were more likely to be in LC2 (RRR 1.36) than LC1. Negative emotions towards FR were associated with higher risk of being in LC2 (RRR 1.39) than LC1. Knowledge of preventing FR spread was associated with a lower risk of being in LC2 (RRR 0.46) or LC3 (RRR 0.34) than LC1. Knowledge about FR transmission was associated with a lower risk of being in LC3 (RRR 0.64) than LC1. An increased risk of lameness was associated with the production cycle being a barrier to treating sheep with FR (IRR 1.13), negative emotions towards FR (IRR 1.13) and feelings of hopelessness towards FR (IRR 1.20). Conscientiousness (IRR 0.95) and understanding the importance of active control of lameness (IRR 0.76) were associated with reduced risk of lameness. We conclude that emotions and personality are associated with differences in farmer management of FR and prevalence of lameness. Further understanding how personality and emotions influence change in behaviour is key to increasing uptake of new information.

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O’Kane, H., Ferguson, E., Kaler, J., & Green, L. (2017). Associations between sheep farmer attitudes, beliefs, emotions and personality, and their barriers to uptake of best practice: The example of footrot. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 139, 123–133. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.prevetmed.2016.05.009

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