New research suggests cattle vets are “risk-averse” when it comes to giving dairy farmers vaccination advice, but farmers really want, and would be willing to pay for, the considered opinion of a trusted vet.

vet on farm
A trusting relationship and effective communication between vet and farmer is crucial to optimise vaccination strategies.

In the face of limited research into the motivating factors and barriers to vaccinating dairy cattle, researchers at The University of Nottingham conducted separate interviews with both vets and farmers to analyse opinions. Farmers and vets then met to discuss the results.

Researchers concluded a trusting relationship and effective communication between vet and farmer is crucial to optimise vaccination strategies and there was a pressing need to build on the vet-farmer relationship.

The findings were presented at BCVA Congress and have been published in Veterinary Record.

Consensus panel

One of the principal investigators of the study, Wendela Wapenaar, who presented at BCVA Congress with Marnie Brennan, said the research had thrown up some “absolutely fascinating” results.

Dr Wapenaar, clinical associate professor in cattle health and epidemiology at Nottingham, said: “As part of the research, lead author Imogen Richens interviewed farmers and vets, and what became really apparent is vets are quite risk-averse. They would rather say ‘oh yes, vaccinate’, not because they necessarily believe vaccination is the best thing, but because they don’t want to take the risk of not vaccinating.

“At the end of the project we had a consensus panel, where we had farmers and vets sitting together and then, knowing all the various motivators from the two different parties, we tried to establish how we could move forward.”

‘Fascinating’ discussion

She continued: “It was absolutely fascinating because discussion bore out [the fact] farmers thought it was lovely vets gave them all the options about different vaccination protocols, but what they really wanted, and what they really valued, was for the vet to say ‘well, in my considered opinion, this is the best way forward’.

“Farmers told us, the vet – with all their training and local knowledge – was the best person to advise them on the best animal health strategy with regards to vaccination, so they didn’t want them to just give them all the options for them to choose from. They wanted vets to say… ‘I think this [vaccination] protocol is the best option’.”

  • Read the full story in the 14 November issue of Veterinary Times.
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