Communication method impacts the uptake of best practice managements by farmers

Authors: Grant, Claire, Kaler, Jasmeet, Ferguson, Eamonn, O’Kane, Holly and Green, Laura E. (2018)

Summary written by Naomi Prosser.

These results are from lameness questionnaires that were sent out in 2013 and 2014.

The study investigated methods of giving information to farmers by measuring the uptake of the ‘Six steps to sound sheep’ (see below), and associated decrease in numbers of lame sheep, by farmers who received this information in different ways (via the post, in group meetings or one-to-one visits).

Farmers that received one-to-one visits from the researcher had the greatest reduction in lameness, followed by those who attended group meetings, with the smallest reduction in lameness in flocks that only received leaflets. There was also a greater reduction of lameness in flocks where farmers were already using most of the six steps but were slow to treat lame sheep before the trial, than where farmers had not been using the six steps at all.

The ‘Six steps to sound sheep’ are:

  1. CATCH sheep within three days of becoming lame
  2. INSPECT feet clean away dirt but do not trim hoof horn
  3. DIAGNOSE the cause of lameness
  4. TREAT all sheep with footrot or scald with antibiotic injection and spray but do not trim the foot (spray alone is sufficient for lambs with scald)
  5. MARK and RECORD all sheep with footrot or scald
  6. CULL sheep that are repeatedly lame

After receiving the ‘Six steps to sound sheep’, more farmers:

  • had fewer lame sheep
  • caught lame sheep sooner
  • used injectable antibiotics to treat footrot
  • stopped foot trimming (both routinely and to treat footrot and scald)
  • expressed negative attitudes towards foot trimming
  • were angry or miserable about having footrot in their flock 

The original research can be found using the link below: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167587717301757

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