- Debunking the myth of the hard-to-reach farmer: effective communication on udder health
- Journal of Dairy Science
- Volume | Issue number
- 93 | 1
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Amsterdam School of Communication Research (ASCoR)
Worldwide, programs to control mastitis are implemented
using different strategies to reach farmers.
Even though education materials and best practices
may be technically optimal, they need to be used to be
successful. Thus, effective communication with farmers
is essential in order to change their behavior and to
improve their farm management. During a Dutch national
mastitis control program, a substantial number of
farmers seemed to be hard to reach with information on
udder health. Consequently, this study was designed to
provide insight into the attitude and motivation of such
farmers. In the period of October 2007 to July 2008,
24 in-depth, semistructured interviews were conducted
with farmers whose veterinarians considered to be difficult
to approach with advice on udder health management
(8 practices, 3 farmers from each practice). The
interviews included questions about the farms and the
farmers, their attitude and behavior regarding mastitis,
and their information sources and social environment.
The results show that so-called hard-to-reach farmers
were not always badly informed about udder health
and did not always experience problems with mastitis.
These ostensibly unreachable farmers were not a homogeneous
group, but rather could be divided into 4
categories based on their trust in external information
sources regarding mastitis and their orientation toward
the outside world: proactivists, do-it-yourselfers, waitand-
see-ers, and reclusive traditionalists. There are
ample opportunities to reach hard-to-reach farmers,
provided that the communication strategies are tailored
to their specific needs. There is especially much
to gain in communication with do-it-yourselfers and
wait-and-see-ers, but this demands a more proactive
role on the part of veterinarians and extension specialists.
Different types of farmers need to be approached
in different ways and through different channels with
information on udder health. Consequently, this study
can contribute to the optimization of future programs
designed to control and prevent diseases.
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