Farmer innovation for improvement of animal health and welfare
: A comparison of different policy interventions to enhance practice-led innovation for animal health and welfare improvement

  • Lisa Van Dijk

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Encouraging farmers to adopt more animal-health and welfare-friendly husbandry practices remains a critical challenge for animal-welfare improvement. This thesis, operating at the critical intersection of the applied animal welfare and social sciences disciplines, examines, evaluates and demonstrates the potential of practice-led innovation processes in the context of applied animal welfare science and animal welfare practice change to improve animal health and welfare.

A series of recent policy interventions case studies, with a strong practice-led approach to enhance farmer innovation for animal health and welfare improvement, were investigated, documented and analysed: a new collaborative learning approach for farmer-led Participatory Policy Making aimed at reducing antibiotic use in dairy cattle (initiated by two dairy producer groups, the Waitrose Dairy Farmers and Coombe Farm) and a practice-led innovation approach used in the laying hen sector (promoted by the EU-H2020-funded Hennovation project). In the empirical sections of this thesis, these interventions were ´tested´ and compared with a more conventional top-down regulatory/compliance approach to practice change, in this instance, existing and new initiatives to engage farmers in on-farm welfare-assessment approaches to promote welfare-improvement through farm assurance promoted by the AssureWel project.

The research findings demonstrated that practice-led approaches provide, clear tangible benefits for farmers and lead to stronger relationships with other farmers, suppliers and support actors and networks. And provided evidence that practice-led innovation could offer an alternative approach and an effective mechanism for generating animal welfare practice change and innovation (or a certain kind of innovation) at the ‘on-the-ground’ level of farming practice.

The examination of the three interventions shows that opportunities and advantages exist for the enhanced integration of more participatory approaches to farmer innovation in future strategy and policy initiatives, alongside more conventional advisory pathways and other welfare-improvement strategies. Recommendations are offered to enhance and support practice-led approaches to farmer innovation for animal health and welfare improvement.
Date of Award25 Sep 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorKristen K Reyher (Supervisor), Siobhan Mullan (Supervisor) & David Main (Supervisor)

Cite this