Sustainable livestock production relies on effective helminth control. Integrated control practices are required to reduce future reliance on anthelmintics and safeguard available products. In the UK, best practice guidelines for worm control have been widely publicised however, uptake in some areas remains low. To maximise the benefit of future research we must understand the drivers and barriers to uptake of current recommendations and optimise knowledge exchange (KE) with end-users. To this end we have undertaken two pieces of work; one a Delphi style survey/expert elicitation exercise and secondly a questionnaire survey to farmers both in the UK and across Europe as part of an EU cost action.
Delphi: A two-round online Delphi-style survey was designed to gather opinion from experts on the importance and practicability of current recommendations, perceived barriers to uptake and the effectiveness of current KE platforms. Round one comprised 24 questions, analysis of which highlighted common answers for inclusion in the second questionnaire (n=20 questions). Selected experts included animal health advisors, veterinarians and researchers. A total of 31 experts completed the first-round questionnaire, 17 completed the second-round. A subset of questions on importance and practicability of current recommendations were also asked to farmers and sheep veterinarians during meetings, 50 farmers and 63 veterinarians completed the short questionnaires.
Results indicated good agreement between farmers, veterinarians and experts on the importance and practicability of the recommendations. Effective administration of anthelmintics was ranked the most important and practical by all groups (~50% of respondents) with effective quarantine being consider practically important. Preserving susceptible worms on farm and reducing dependence on anthelmintics were ranked the least important (23% and 19% respectively) or practical (13% and 9% respectively), with the main barrier for uptake being the complexity of these messages. Demonstration and face-to-face events were ranked more likely to evoke change in behaviour than online material or consumer-pressure. Results highlight the topics which require further attention and re-iterate regional variation in priorities which will inform the design of effective KE activities for the future.
Questionnaire: As part of an EU COST action (COMBAR [COMBatting Anthelmintic Resistance in ruminants]; https://www.combar-ca.eu) a questionnaire was disseminated to sheep farmers from European countries to gather information on: 1) farmer demographics and enterprise characteristics 2) general roundworm control/anthelmintic resistance attitude statements 3) knowledge and understanding questions 4) attitudinal statements regarding parasite control recommendation and 5) parasite control behaviours.
Completed questionnaires were returned by over 2300 respondents from nine countries across Europe: Austria, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Wales. Descriptive analysis indicated the perception of roundworms as a major problem on farms is lower in southern Europe compared to central and northern Europe, a similar pattern occurs when examining how roundworms rank in comparison to other endemic diseases.
Veterinarians are regarded highly by all nations universally as trusted brokers of advice. Direct communication (in-person or over the phone) remains the preferred format for receiving information on roundworm control, but other formats such as paper articles (magazines, leaflets), online publications and video-clips/podcasts/webinars are equally important sources in northern/central European countries, but were not as favoured in southern Europe.
In order to make messages more accessible, we have developed different ‘novel’ communication tools in collaboration with national and international colleagues e.g. quarantine advice (with SCOPS committee; https://www.scops.org.uk/internal-parasites/quarantine-advice-for-internal-and-external-parasites/) and an animation (with COMBAR; https://moredun.org.uk/resources/videos/test-dont-guess, ‘test don’t guess’) and Factsheet.
For more information, please contact Dave Bartley [email protected]