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Title: An evaluation of UK sheep farmers' attitudes and behaviours towards sustainable roundworm control
Author: Jack, Corin Malcolm
ISNI:       0000 0004 7229 4052
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2018
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One of the major constraints limiting the efficiency of sheep production is the control of gastrointestinal nematode parasites. Parasite control by strategic use of anthelmintics is threatened by the emergence of nematode populations that are resistant to the drugs available. It is therefore increasingly apparent that steps toward maintaining sustainable productivity in the growing face of anthelmintic resistance (AR) is required by farmers. To facilitate the uptake of sustainable approaches to parasite management, a comprehensive understanding of the various factors that may influence farmers’ decision-making processes is required. In order to establish which factors are influential, and determine their impact on farmers’ roundworm control behaviours, both qualitative and quantitative research methods were used including focus groups as well as attitudinal and behavioural questionnaires. A retrospective analysis was initially conducted of historical surveys designed to identify farm specific characteristics and parasite management practices including anthelmintic usage. The objectives of the analysis were to identify factors associated with uptake of best practice advice including farm characteristics and information sourcing. In addition, the implementation of sustainable roundworm control practices was investigated using two surveys conducted in 2000 and 2010. Logistic regression models were applied for univariable and multivariable analysis of dependent and independent variables. The next step was to conduct a series of focus groups in different geographic regions of Scotland. The main purposes were to explore sheep farmers’ attitudes towards different aspects of roundworm management, as well as to identify potential motivators and barriers to uptake of sustainable parasite control practices. The findings aided in the development of an attitudinal questionnaire used to canvass opinions representative on a national level. The concluding study involved a telephone survey of 400 Scottish sheep farmers, designed to elicit attitudes regarding roundworm control, AR and sustainable roundworm control practices. A quantitative statistical analysis technique (Structural Equation Modelling) was then used to test the relationships between socio-psychological factors and the uptake of sustainable roundworm control practices. The analysis of historical questionnaire data demonstrated evidence of a shift towards the use of practices to reduce the rate of AR development, most notably a decline in the practice of ‘dose and move’ as well as an overall reduction in treatment frequency. Statistical analysis identified significant associations between farm characteristics and specific treatment strategies. For example, larger farms were more likely to adopt a set treatment regimen (P=0.036), compared with smaller farms, which were more likely to treat based on clinical signs of infection (P=0.021). Sourcing of roundworm control information primarily from veterinarians was most associated with treatment timings with no parallels between time points. From the qualitative focus group studies conducted we identified four overarching themes impacting on sheep producers’ attitudes to roundworm control and best practice advice. These themes comprised: a lack of perceived need to change, the complexity of advice, the ease of implementation of recommended practices and the effectiveness of extension approaches. Additionally, the most important and implementable guidelines identified by sheep farmers were: ‘working out a roundworm control strategy with an advisor’ and ‘administering anthelmintics effectively’ with regard to correct drenching practice i.e. appropriate dosing, administration and drug storage procedures. These findings exhibited similarities with veterinarians’ rankings with also, ‘testing for AR’, ‘preserving susceptible parasites’ and ‘reducing dependence on anthelmintics’ receiving the lowest rankings for importance and implementability. The quantitative analysis from the attitudinal/behavioural questionnaire identified eleven factors with significant influences on the adoption of sustainable roundworm control practices. The key influences on overall adoption were farmers’ baseline understanding about roundworm control and self-reported confirmation of anthelmintic resistance in their flock. Additional positive influences included, positive attitudes to veterinary services, enterprise type and perceived risk of AR. Factors that were shown to have the greatest relative effects on individual parasite control practices included; the perceived resource requirements for implementing a quarantine strategy, farmers’ AR suspicions for instigating AR testing and the confirmation of AR for adopting faecal egg count monitoring. The findings have highlighted several factors which can influence sheep farmers’ decisions to reject or adopt recommended roundworm control practices. It is evident that the perceived complexity, lack of need and practicality of the current recommendations necessitates changes to how extension is designed and disseminated to farmers. The findings also suggest that improving farmers’ acceptance and uptake of diagnostic testing and improving underlying knowledge and awareness about nematode control is a significant target to influencing adoption of best practice behaviours. The importance of veterinarians as highly-trusted information resources validates the need for further engagement with veterinarians concerning sustainable parasite control approaches, to facilitate collaboration with farmers. The need for interaction between farmers and their advisors is key to resolving the issues raised to enable the necessary explanation, justification and execution of recommended practices to suit farmers’ needs and farming conditions.
Supervisor: Sargison, Neil ; Hotchkiss, Emily ; Bartley, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: parasitic intestinal roundworms ; drug resistance ; parasite management ; treatment usage ; statistical analysis ; best practice advice ; implementing ; faecal egg count monitoring ; roundworm control practices ; collaboration