Farmer-led, participatory approaches are being increasingly employed in agricultural research, with promising results. This study aimed to understand how a participatory approach based on the Danish stable schools could help to achieve practical, farmer-led changes that reduced reliance on antimicrobials in the UK. Five facilitated farmer action groups comprising 30 dairy farms across South West England met on farm at regular intervals between 2016 and 2018, and worked collaboratively within their groups to discuss how to reduce antimicrobial use. Qualitative data from group discussions and individual semi-structured interviews were collected and analyzed using thematic analysis to explore how the approach helped farmers address and deal with changes to their on-farm practices. Facilitator-guided reviews of antimicrobial use and benchmarking were carried out on each farm to assess any change in usage and help farmers review their practices. The pattern of antimicrobial use changed over the 2 yr of the study, with 21 participating farms reducing their use of highest-priority critically important antibiotics (6 farms were not using any of these critical medicines from the outset). Thirty practical action plans were co-developed by the groups with an average implementation rate of 54.3% within a year. All assessed farms implemented 1 recommendation, and many were still ongoing at the end of the study. Farmers particularly valued the peer-to-peer learning during farm walks. Farmers reported how facilitated discussions and action planning as a peer group had empowered them to change practices. Participants identified knowledge gaps during the project, particularly on highest-priority critically important antibiotics, where they were not getting information from their veterinarians. The study demonstrated that facilitation has a valuable role to play in participatory approaches beyond moderating discussion; facilitators encouraged knowledge mobilization within the groups and were participants in the research as well. Facilitated, farmer-led, participatory approaches that mobilize different forms of knowledge and encourage peer learning are a promising way of helping farmers to adapt and develop responsible practices.
|Number of pages||18|
|Journal||Journal of Dairy Science|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Feb 2021|
- peer learning