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Prev Vet Med. 2013 Jul 1;110(3-4):456-66. doi: 10.1016/j.prevetmed.2013.02.018. Epub 2013 Mar 11.

Farmers' attitudes to disease risk management in England: a comparative analysis of sheep and pig farmers.

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School of Agriculture, Policy and Development, University of Reading, PO Box 237, Reading RG6 6AR, UK.


The UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) identified practices to reduce the risk of animal disease outbreaks. We report on the response of sheep and pig farmers in England to promotion of these practices. A conceptual framework was established from research on factors influencing adoption of animal health practices, linking knowledge, attitudes, social influences and perceived constraints to the implementation of specific practices. Qualitative data were collected from nine sheep and six pig enterprises in 2011. Thematic analysis explored attitudes and responses to the proposed practices, and factors influencing the likelihood of implementation. Most feel they are doing all they can reasonably do to minimise disease risk and that practices not being implemented are either not relevant or ineffective. There is little awareness and concern about risk from unseen threats. Pig farmers place more emphasis than sheep farmers on controlling wildlife, staff and visitor management and staff training. The main factors that influence livestock farmers' decision on whether or not to implement a specific disease risk measure are: attitudes to, and perceptions of, disease risk; attitudes towards the specific measure and its efficacy; characteristics of the enterprise which they perceive as making a measure impractical; previous experience of a disease or of the measure; and the credibility of information and advice. Great importance is placed on access to authoritative information with most seeing vets as the prime source to interpret generic advice from national bodies in the local context. Uptake of disease risk measures could be increased by: improved risk communication through the farming press and vets to encourage farmers to recognise hidden threats; dissemination of credible early warning information to sharpen farmers' assessment of risk; and targeted information through training events, farming press, vets and other advisers, and farmer groups, tailored to the different categories of livestock farmer.

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