Understanding dairy farmer intentions to make improvements to their management practices of foot lesions causing lameness in dairy cows.Prev Vet Med. 2019 Nov 01; 171:104767.PV
Foot lesions causing lameness in dairy cows have been demonstrated to adversely affect milk yield, reproductive performance and longevity, resulting in significant economic burden to individual dairy farmers and the dairy industry. Further, foot lesions compromise dairy cow welfare. Despite this knowledge, foot lesions remain a large problem in many dairy herds woldwide. Therefore, there is potential for dairy farmers to make changes to their current management practices of foot lesions. This study used the social-psychology framework, the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB), to explore dairy farmers' intentions to make improvements to their current management practices of foot lesions in their dairy cows and to identify the underlying behavioral, normative and control beliefs facilitating and constraining this behavior. In accordance with the theoretical framework, Australian dairy farmers were invited to participate in an online questionnaire which included questions regarding intentions, attitudes, subjective norms and perceived behavioral control. Fifty-six dairy farmers completed the questionnaire. The overall intention of these dairy farmers to make improvements to their management practices of foot lesions in the next year was moderate. Dairy farmers believed improving their current management practices of foot lesions would improve animal welfare, increase milk production and was worth the cost involved (behavioral beliefs). They indicated that the opinions of consumers, staff, and animal welfare groups were important in their decision to make improvements (normative beliefs). Better equipment and facilities, improved knowledge and training, and a favorable cost-benefit ratio were perceived as factors that would enable dairy farmers to improve their management practices (control beliefs). While all of these beliefs may be considered as potential drivers to facilitate dairy farmers to change their management practices, the behavioral beliefs were identified as the priority beliefs that industry should target in the development of strategies to increase dairy farmer intentions to make improvements to their management practices of foot lesions.