To change or not to change? Veterinarian and farmer perceptions of relational factors influencing the enactment of veterinary advice on dairy farms in the United Kingdom

Alison M. Bard*, David Main, Emma Roe, Anne Haase, Helen Rebecca Whay, Kristen K. Reyher

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)
21 Downloads (Pure)


Achieving herd health and welfare improvement increasingly relies on cattle veterinarians to train and advise farmers, placing veterinary interactions at the heart of knowledge exchange. Cattle veterinarians recognize their influence and the need to be proactive advisors but struggle with acting upon this awareness in daily practice, reporting a need to enhance their advisory approach to inspire farmer behavior change. Understanding how veterinarian-farmer interactions positively or negatively influence the enactment of change on farm is therefore essential to support the cattle veterinary profession. This paper adopts a qualitative approach to conceptualize how and under what circumstances veterinary advice has the potential to support and inspire farmer engagement with behavior change on the UK dairy farm. Fourteen UK dairy farms were recruited to take part in a qualitative study involving research observation of a typical advisory consultation between veterinarian and farmer (n = 14) followed by separate, in-depth interviews with the farmer(s) and their respective veterinarian. Interview data were organized using a template coding method and analyzed thematically. While accuracy of veterinary advisory content was valued, it was a relational context of trust, shared veterinarian-farmer understanding, and meaningful interpretation of advice at a local (farmer) level that was most likely to enact change. Critically, these relational factors were reported to work together synergistically; a trusting relationship was an essential, but not necessarily sufficient, component to create a culture of change. Findings suggest that cattle veterinarians may benefit from tailoring advisory services to the farmer's specific world view, facilitated by a shared understanding of the farmer's immediate and long-term motivational drivers. In consequence, cattle veterinarians seeking to positively engage farmers in advisory interactions could consider a focus on farmer priorities, motivations, and goals as paramount to frame and inform advisory messages. This explicit collaborative communication encourages the selection of appropriate and timely veterinary expertise, leading to better integration and adoption of advice on farm given enhanced advisory relevance for farmers' unique circumstances. This farmer-centered approach, involving active co-creation of plans between individuals, is critical for engagement and commitment when tackling complex problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10379-10394
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number11
Early online date22 Aug 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • behavior change
  • communication
  • dairy farmer
  • herd health
  • veterinary advice


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