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Identification of changes in farmer behaviour relating to the movement and management of cattle in the UK - SE3039

Bovine tuberculosis (bTB) control measures in Great Britain have recently been modified in an attempt to curtail the current epidemic. The mainstay of these measures is the pre-movement testing of cattle. These legislative interventions impose additional cost (both financially and in terms of time) on farmers and may, therefore, alter farm management, particularly with regard to cattle movement. There is therefore a need to monitor changes in farmer behaviour, particularly in terms of cattle movement, following the introduction of these measures to assess the likely efficacy of legislation introduced to lessen the spread of bTB in the UK.

We propose studies to assess the impact of recent legislative changes on farmer behaviour. Our principal objectives are to identify global and individual level behavioural changes that have occurred since the introduction of bTb control measures and to identify factors motivating these changes. The project we propose consists of 3 interrelated studies. First, in order to make tangible correlations between behavioural change and modifications to bTB control, we will conduct a review of all major policy changes to affect the livestock industry over the last five years. We will produce a time-line of important dates in the announcement and implementation of government legislation directly affecting the livestock industry, these include changes to the farm subsidies, handling of fallen stock, and lifting of the “over-thirty-months” scheme. Here we will also investigate the timing of reporting of the relevant legislation in the farming press.

Second, in order to identify changes in farmer behaviour with regard to cattle movements we will conduct detailed network and time series analyses of RADAR cattle movement data. Any such analysis needs to recognise the multiplicity of legislation and other pressures under which the cattle industry operates. The livestock industry has been required to adapt to changes in consumer demands, food safety, trade and movement controls over recent decades. Hence, recent bTb control measures are one part of a wide range of changes that have occurred during this time and variation observed in the movement data can only be attributed to recent modifications of bTB control measures by first identifying pre-existent underlying trends. We have previously reported seasonal and long terms trends in cattle movement data for the period 2002-2005 (prior to recent changes to bTb control) and we now propose to update existing time series analyses to include data from 2005 to early 2007 in order to identify changes that may be attributable to changes in bTB control.

Initial analyses will investigate the numbers of cattle moving as well as trends in the distances over which cattle are moved. However, analysis of individual farm-level data provides only limited information. Our previous work using network analysis has demonstrated that substantial changes, important in the transmission dynamics of infectious agents, may be evident in the cattle movement network despite little or no apparent variation in individual farm measures. Therefore, we will utilise our expertise in network analysis of large datasets to identify changes in the global behaviour of the cattle industry. We will formally identify change points in trends and correlate them with important dates in the announcement, implementation of bTB, control measures.

Thirdly we will investigate the effect of recent changes to bTB control on farmer behaviour through questionnaire and interview of farmers themselves. Concurrently with time series analysis we will conduct a range of exploratory surveys together with personal interviews to assess factors and conditions which underpin motivation for change since the bTB pre-movement testing. The exploratory survey will identify perceived recent changes in the management of cattle on individual farmsand within the industry more generally. Follow-up interviews will seek to verify these changes on-farms and to identify and explain factors responsible for the variation in changes among farmers in different regions. Subsequently, we will use a questionnaire to assess the most important factors impacting on relevant behavioural decisions. These surveys will be conducted in areas with varying degrees of sensitivity to the effects of TB in cattle. Such approaches are essential to capture the regional variation in disease prevalence. Were possible, perceived changes will be verified using RADAR cattle movement data.

We believe this proposal has several strengths. First, we utilise existing expertise in time series and network analysis to identifying trends in cattle movements, both in terms of farm-level factors (numbers of animals and distances moved, and types of premises moving cattle) and population-level factors (component size and density). Second, utilise our expertise in measuring behaviour through analysis of movement records and the proposal is strengthened by experience in communications with farmers. Third, the interdisciplinary skills of the project team will promote novel approaches to the evaluation of agricultural policy. We have extensive experience in the investigation of the psychological aspects of decision making and behaviour in a wide range of businesses. Application of these methods to the cattle industies will provide novel insight of the effect of bTB control on the behaviour of these sectors.
The three principle objectives are:

1. To identify the time-line of policy events relevant to changes in farmer behaviour.
2. To conduct comprehensive time series and temporal network analysis of cattle movement data
3. To identify farmer-perceived behavioural change since introduction of pre-movement testing and to understand these behaviours and factors that underlie them.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Final Report   (1548k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2007

To: 2009

Cost: £289,530
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Liverpool
Animal Diseases              
Animal Health              
Plants and Animals              
Social Research              
Fields of Study
Animal Health