Routine inertia and reactionary response in animal health best practice

Agriculture and Human Values 35 (1):207-221 (2018)

Emma Dillon
University of Missouri, Columbia
Animal health is a key factor affecting the economic efficiency of the dairy industry. Improvements in animal health are also of relevance to society more broadly, given important implications for animal welfare, food safety and quality. Although the economic gains of best practice with regard to animal health have been well documented, many farmers are not adopting optimal herd management techniques. This paper utilises nationally representative farm-level data from Ireland for 2013 to identify drivers and barriers to the adoption of best practice with regard to on-farm mastitis management. Exploratory factor analysis is used to derive measures of farmers’ attitudes towards animal health and mastitis and econometric techniques are employed to empirically assess the influence of these on the uptake of beneficial herd health management practices. A number of focus groups were also undertaken to complement the analysis. This paper concludes that farmers’ attitudes towards animal health are not a key driver in the uptake of best practice, although perceived disease risk is of relevance. A number of interesting issues arise in identifying barriers to the uptake of best practice, these include the possibility of routine inertia, i.e., farmers do not deviate from the routine developed around mastitis prevention until there is an indication of infection, as well as constraints around the availability of labour and time. Farmer behaviour with respect to mastitis management can thus be considered as reactionary as opposed to precautionary. This research highlights the valuable role of the extension agent but concludes that engagement around knowledge transfer and technology adoption is particularly complex.
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DOI 10.1007/s10460-017-9817-5
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