Farmers play a decisive role in raising animal welfare and health standards on their farms. It is often assumed that they act on a purely economic basis. However, changing insights have shown that psychological and sociological drivers should also be acknowledged. This was tested in a study focusing on dairy farmers’ decision making concerning participation in a hypothetical dairy health programme. Bovine Virus Diarrhoea (BVD) was chosen as a case to create a realistic setting for the 130 dairy farmers participating in the study. Of the farmers, 82 already participated in the dairy health programme (DHP farmers). The 48 farmers who did not participate were asked whether they would consider joining the programme if they were offered a reward of €3 per healthy (BVD-free) calf, or a fine of €30 per (BVD-) infected calf. Of these farmers, 38 (79%) chose to join the programme (DHP-test farmers), and ten did not (DHP-no-test farmers). In comparison with DHP-test farmers and DHP-no-test farmers, DHP farmers had a more positive attitude towards the programme, were more convinced that joining the programme should lead to fewer sick cows and calves on the farm, more often thought it was bad luck if BVD should occur on their farm anyway, and perceived fewer problems with BVD. DHP-no-test farmers seemed to be the most distinct group in this study. They were less convinced than DHP- and DHP-test farmers that joining the programme benefits the cows’ health and welfare, and will increase work pleasure, and they were less convinced than DHP farmers that joining the programme will increase farm income and that joining the programme will be approved by people in their locality. They seemed to be less ambiguity averse than the other farmers and were more hesitant to join the dairy health programme than DHP-test farmers. This study indicates that dairy farmers who make different choices with regard to animal health, differ in their sensitivity to a reward or a fine. In addition, they have different intentions to join a health programme and different attitudes, beliefs and perceptions towards such a programme. These insights should be taken into account when designing tailor-made interventions for farmers and other agents. A better understanding of farmers’ adoption of practices that reduce animal (and human) health risks would be very helpful for veterinarians, advisers, policymakers and industrial agents.
- Dairy health programme
- Decision making of farmers