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Investigating the Role of Agricultural Extension in Influencing Ontario Dairy Producer Behaviour for Johne's Disease Control

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Title: Investigating the Role of Agricultural Extension in Influencing Ontario Dairy Producer Behaviour for Johne's Disease Control
Author: Roche, Steven
Department: Department of Population Medicine
Program: Population Medicine
Advisor: Kelton, DavidJones-Bitton, Andria
Abstract: Study objectives were to: (a) describe Ontario (ON) dairy producer and veterinarian perceptions of the barriers and motivators to adopting on-farm management practices for Johne’s disease (JD) control, (b) implement and evaluate an agricultural extension program, called ON Focus Farms (FF), to improve the adoption of JD control practices, (c) compare changes in knowledge, attitude, perception, and behaviour towards JD control among FF participants and a group of non-participating producers, (d) investigate dairy producer learning preferences and perceptions of various sources of information, and (e) economically assess the costs and benefits of implementing FF over a 10-year period. To meet these objectives, pre- and post-FF intervention questionnaires, JD risk assessments, and post-FF intervention focus groups were administered. Both producers and veterinarians identified physical resource barriers (i.e. time, money, infrastructure) and intrinsic barriers (i.e. perceived priority of JD, motivation, perceived practicality of JD control recommendations) to adoption. They also suggested extrinsic (i.e. incentives, premiums, penalties, and regulations, extension and communication) and intrinsic (i.e. pride and responsibility) methods for motivating producers. While producer preferences for sources of information were varied, the majority (68%) ranked veterinarians as their top information source. Furthermore, 61% had a preference for learning kinesthetically (i.e. experience, context and practice). Overall, 176 dairy producers participated in FF. Focus group discussions revealed that a facilitator-moderated and producer-centred environment were the key characteristics in making FF effective. Over two-thirds of respondents self-reported improvements in awareness, confidence, knowledge, and attitude towards JD control. Furthermore, 81% of FF respondents reported implementing at least one on-farm management change for JD control, resulting in a significant reduction in the their JD risk assessment scores; knowledge changes were significantly higher, and risk scores significantly lower, than control respondents. Participating in FF, having a moderate herd management score, a positive perception about the practicality of on- farm recommendations, and having a singular learning preference were associated with increased odds of making an on-farm change. Lastly, the economic evaluation of FF implementation in ON over a 10-year period yielded positive net benefits, suggesting that its implementation would be valuable for reducing the burden of disease on ON dairy farms.
Date: 2014-05
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