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Identify and evaluate the barriers to influencing change in on-farm animal welfare practices - AW0512

Defra is increasingly aware that there are good managements (best practice) that would improve animal welfare that farmers are not always adopting.

One result of not adopting best practices is that farmers then fail inspections of welfare and can cost the country further if legal action is required. It is important for society that best practice is adopted by farmers so that tax payers’ money is used most effectively and the societal good of high animal welfare is maintained.

The decisions that farmers make are complex and are a combination of subconscious and conscious values and beliefs. These lead to attitudes that make farmers likely or unlikely to adopt new managements on their farm. A number of studies have identified barriers and motivators that prevent and stimulate farmers in changing their management.

To date the barriers and motivators identified have not been solely sheep farmers. There are many tens of thousands of sheep farmers who have an average age of 59 and many types of farm management and reasons for farming sheep. This means that these farmers are likely to have a wide range of attitudes and beliefs.
The barriers identified in other farming groups include age and educational level. Motivators include family and lifestyle values, environmental stewardship and economics.

No study to date has tested whether it is possible to change an unmotivated farmer to adopt a new management by presenting the management in a way that the farmer is likely to find attractive and be motivated to change.

The research into attitudes, beliefs and behaviour has its routes in human psychology where studies have been done to test how best to motivate change. Clinical trials have been done to test, for example, how to encourage more people to carry an organ donation card or to wear helmets when cycling or to take treatments in chronic disease situations.

In this study we propose to test whether barriers for change identified in sheep farmers can be overcome by framing good management practices in a way likely to encourage change.

To test whether we can identify motivators that overcome barriers to change we need a robust measure so that if a farmer changes their behaviour we can detect the change. One such measure is lameness in sheep. We can measure lameness in sheep (and farmers can recognise and estimate the level of lameness in their flock) and expect a reduction in lameness to about 2% within 2 – 4 months of farmers adopting the best practice of treating lame sheep appropriately and promptly. This is good for sheep health, welfare and productivity. In addition, it is a cost effective approach and therefore economically beneficial for the farmer. Despite this, whilst farmers can identify even mildly lame sheep, about 80% of farmers are delaying treatment of lame sheep. There is clearly scope for testing whether we can promote change in management of lame sheep to best practice.

We can therefore use the measurement of lameness in sheep to test the drivers that influence farmers to change their management.

We are a team with expertise in psychology, sheep lameness, collecting and analysing data from farmers, experience of working closely with farmers and the sheep industry and delivery bodies such as QA schemes.

We propose a series of studies that
1. Identify different behavioural beliefs of sheep farmers and barriers and motivators to change
2. Link these to the farmer's current knowledge of managing lameness in sheep
3. Set up clinical trials to test whether the motivators identified do lead to change when we present best practice in a form that is motivating to farmers using the example of best practice to minimise lameness in sheep
4. Identify the true motivators and barriers to change in sheep farmers.

At the end of the study Defra should know what motivates sheep farmers and how new managements can best be promoted to encourage their use. We will present the results of the work widely to levy bodies, QA schemes and educational bodies.
Project Documents
• EVID4 - Final project report : AW0512 - final report   (892k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2011

To: 2015

Cost: £519,106
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University of Warwick
Development of tools - facilitate behaviour change              
Fields of Study
Animal Welfare