• Engaging with selective dry cow therapy: understanding the barriers and facilitators perceived by Irish farmers

      Huey, Sarah; Kavanagh, Michaela; Regan, Aine; Dean, Moira; McKernan, Clare; McCoy, Finola; Ryan, Eoin G.; Caballero-Villalobos, Javier; McAloon, Catherine I.; Animal Health Ireland (Biomed Central, 2021-10-23)
      Background Selective dry cow therapy (SDCT) is widely promoted in dairy farming as a method to reduce antimicrobial usage. New legislation introduced by the European Union will restrict and regulate the prophylactic and metaphylactic use of antibiotics from January 2022. Blanket dry cow therapy continues to be a practice engaged in by many farmers in Ireland and for many of these farmers, moving towards SDCT would require a significant infrastructural, behavioural and/or cultural change on their farm. Existing research has reported the important need to understand farmers’ motivations to initiate any substantial behaviour change. However, it is currently unknown what farmers know, think and believe about SDCT in Ireland. The aim of this study was to use qualitative methods to explore what barriers and facilitators farmers perceived to exist with SDCT and explore if they had chosen to implement SDCT after voluntarily participating in a funded dry cow consult with a trained veterinarian, with the objective of maximising the dry period udder health performance and moving safely to SDCT. Results In this study, 19 farmers were contacted, and telephone interviews were conducted regarding farmers’ beliefs about the consequences of SDCT. Audio recordings were professionally transcribed verbatim and analysed qualitatively using an inductive thematic analysis. The analysis identified 6 barriers and 6 facilitators to implementing SDCT. A significant fear of increasing mastitis incidence was evident that caused reluctance towards SDCT and reliance on antibiotics. Mixed perceptions on SDCT, infrastructure limitations, a perceived lack of preventive advice as well as peer influence were presented as barriers to SDCT. Farmers can build confidence when a graded approach to SDCT is implemented, which could help overcome the fear of SDCT and reliance on antibiotics. Regulatory pressure, high standards of farm hygiene and use of targeted veterinary consults were found to facilitate SDCT. Education was suggested to motivate farmers in the future uptake of SDCT. Despite cited negative influences, peer influence can be utilised to encourage the farming community. Conclusions This study prioritises areas to facilitate the major behaviour change required as a dairy industry in order to move from blanket dry cow therapy to SDCT.