Researchers highlighted how changes in farmer conduct can impact disease outbreak prevention. This study was published in Preventative Veterinary Medicine.
Farmer conduct, notably vaccination and other preventative measures is critical to the efficiency of livestock disease outbreak responses such as foot-and-mouth disease, bovine tuberculosis, and bovine viral diarrhoea.
The researchers from the Universities of Warwick and Nottingham believe that the behavioural variations documented in the paper should be considered when formulating contingency plans or policies for future outbreaks.
The researchers contacted 60 cattle farmers from around the UK to investigate their vaccination decisions in the midst of a rapidly spreading pandemic. According to the study, rapid vaccination uptake was connected with strong faith in the government's disease management efforts as well as having enough time and money to handle the disease.
The team then included this information into a mathematical model for the entire UK and investigated how knowledge of farmer behaviour affects disease breakout forecasts when compared to situations in which differences in farmer behaviour are ignored.
The researchers, based at Warwicks Zeeman Institute for Systems Biology and Infectious Disease Epidemiology Research (SPIDER) and from the University of Nottingham, have demonstrated the usefulness of modelling that has both epidemiological and socio-behavioural elements. The study reveals how omitting the diversity in individual farmers disease management plans for livestock infections can hinder assessments of the likely national outcomes.
The value of the behavioural insight highlighted in this research could be extremely helpful in planning and administering national disease control strategies, enabling policymakers to determine the scale and cost of future livestock disease outbreaks more accurately.
Dr Ed Hill, from the Warwick Mathematics Institute, University of Warwick, who co-authored the study, said: Our quantitative study explores veterinary health-associated behaviours, capturing individual and contextual factors. These data allow differences in farmer disease-management behaviours to be included into models of livestock disease transmission, which can help to inform veterinary health decision making.
Co-author, Dr Naomi Prosser from the University of Nottingham, added, Understanding the specific factors associated with different behavioural responses of farmers to disease outbreaks will allow improved design of disease control strategies by taking these factors and the expected behavioural differences into account.
Dr Hill added, This pilot study has shown the power and necessity of combining epidemiological predictions with an assessment of farmer behaviour. More work is now needed to understand how farmers attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs and therefore their likely behaviour will change over time. We also interested in understanding how behaviours are influenced by policy, advice and the actions of neighbouring farmers. (ANI)