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Previously, we’ve applied behavioural science to many different problems – increasing the success rates of smokers trying to quit, improving animal pain management in veterinary practices, and reducing instances of driving after consuming alcohol.
In partnership with Boehringer Ingelheim, we’re now applying behavioural science to cattle farming. For over 12 years, Boehringer Ingelheim has been leading the way in promoting farm animal well-being. Together, we’ve been exploring the human behaviours that affect cattle well-being, and how these can be altered to improve the experience of the cows.
To improve animal well-being, we first need to understand the needs of the animal and how they are affected by human behaviour. For example, many cattle suffer pain when humans assist with calving. However, in order to effect change, we ultimately need to understand and change the behaviour of people – especially that of farmers and vets.
• This approach ensures that we focus on a specific behaviour (such as administering pain relief after an assisted calving). Unless there is a specified target behaviour, interventions are likely to target the wrong barriers and are likely to be ineffective. It is very hard to change multiple behaviours simultaneously – trying to do so often leads to unfocused and ineffective solutions.
• This approach provides us with a framework to think systematically about the barriers and promoters of the specific target behaviour – factors that make it more or less likely that the desired behaviour will happen. Our evidence-based diagnostic framework helps us to navigate complexity and lower risk by focusing on the most relevant factors that are known to effect behaviour identified from validated behavioural-science models. This model is populated by data gathered through qualitative and quantitative research with our target population – vets and farmers.
• This approach helps us to select the right types of interventions for the problem that we are trying to solve. For example, should the intervention be educational or persuasive? Or a combination of both? Single interventions rarely work in isolation, so we need to develop multiple interventions that work in harmony with each other, to give the highest likelihood of changing behaviour.
“With the involvement of Innovia’s expertise, we expect to better understand farmers’ behaviour and motivations and analyse how their choices can affect cattle well-being. This should enable us to design interventions that target the reasons behind these behaviours and are acceptable and feasible to stakeholders.”
“This ambitious and innovative project aims to deliver a set of possible interventions for vets and farmers, starting with one specific area of cattle well-being. We expect that the work along the way will reveal many interesting and important aspects of pain management in cattle which may serve as a basis for practical interventions to ultimately improve cattle well-being.”
Laurent Goby, senior global marketing manager at Boehringer Ingelheim’s ruminant business, who is heading up the project.
Learn more about the project at www.farmanimalwellbeing.com