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Dilemmas experienced by government veterinarians when responding professionally to farm animal welfare incidents in Ireland
2014-02-06, Devitt, Catherine, Kelly, Paddy T., Blake, Martin, Hanlon, Alison, More, Simon John
Objectives: This paper identifies the dilemmas experienced by government veterinarians during their investigations of farm animal welfare incidents that involve herd owner social, health, and/or psychological difficulties. The paper builds on exploratory qualitative research into the impact of these difficulties on farm animal welfare.Design: The study used a qualitative research approach. Focus groups were conducted.Setting: In Ireland, an Early Warning System (EWS), which brings together relevant agencies, is in place to identify and prevent farm animal welfare problems before they become critical. This study is concerned with the experiences of government veterinarians who respond to farm animal welfare incidents. Specific focus is on incidents that involve herd owner social/ psychological/health-related difficulties.Participants: In total, n=18 government veterinarians (representing 15 per cent of the population sample), all with a keen interest in farm animal welfare, participated. These were selected on the basis of their interest, experience, and involvement in farm animal welfare. One government veterinarian declined to participate. Four focus groups were conducted with government veterinarians. These took place in the south (S), south-west (SW), midlands (M), and north-west region of Ireland (NW). All 16 District Veterinary Offices (DVOs) were represented in the focus groups.Results: The results reveal three professional dilemmas that exist for government veterinarians: (1) defining professional parameters; (2) determining the appropriate response; (3) involvement versus detachment. Participants reported not wanting any additional training. Instead, it was agreed that a formal bridge to social service providers who have the professional capability to respond appropriately and with confidence, was required.Conclusions: Clearly defined guidelines are required for government veterinarians in their encounters with farm animal welfare incidents where there is a complex human component. A coordinated multiagency approach that is flexible enough to meet the needs of individual farm animal welfare cases is required.
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Identification of key performance indicators for on-farm animal welfare incidents: possible tools for early warning and prevention
2011, Kelly, Patricia C., More, Simon John, Blake, Martin, et al.
Background: The objective of this study was to describe aspects of case study herds investigated by the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (DAFF) in which animal welfare incidents occurred and to identify key performance indicators (KPIs) that can be monitored to enhance the Early Warning System (EWS). Despite an EWS being in place for a number of years, animal welfare incidents continue to occur. Questionnaires regarding welfare incidents were sent to Superintending Veterinary Inspectors (SVIs), resulting in 18 herds being chosen as case study herds, 12 of which had a clearly defined welfare incident date. For each study herd, data on six potential KPIs were extracted from DAFF databases. The KPIs for those herds with a clearly defined welfare incident date were studied for a consecutive four year window, with the fourth year being the 'incident year', when the welfare incident was disclosed. For study herds without a clearly defined welfare incident date, the KPIs were determined on a yearly basis between 2001 and 2009. Results: We found that the late registration of calves, the use of on-farm burial as a method of carcase disposal, an increasing number of moves to knackeries over time and records of animals moved to 'herd unknown' were notable on the case farms. Conclusion: Four KPIs were prominent on the case study farms and warrant further investigation in control herds to determine their potential to provide a framework for refining current systems of early warning and prevention.
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Challenges and Solutions to Supporting Farm Animal Welfare in Ireland: Responding to the Human Element
2018-06-21, Devitt, Catherine, Hanlon, Alison, More, Simon John, Kelly, Patricia C., Blake, Martin
Over recent decades, changes in agriculture have pushed animal welfare as a topic of concern into mainstream public, policy and political conversations (Buller and Morris, 2003; Fraser, 2014; Broom, 2016). Despite the relationship between farmers and farm animals being important for farm animal welfare standards, there is limited understanding of how the nature of this relationship influences welfare outcomes. Understanding the complexities of this relationship and the wider context in which these complexities are situated is central to forming and implementing interventions that can be effective in improving farm animal welfare on individual farms.
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Farmers' self-reported perceptions and behavioural impacts of a welfare scheme for suckler beef cattle in Ireland
2013, Dwane, Andrea M., More, Simon John, Blake, Martin, et al.
Background: To date, there have been a limited number of studies on the impact of government-incentivised farm animal welfare programmes or ‘schemes’, and on farmers’ attitudes regarding such schemes. In this study, focus groups were used to gain insight into Irish farmers’ perceptions of such a scheme for suckler cattle and its behavioural impacts on farmers. Results: The findings were categorised into 46 codes and ultimately yielded two Global themes: 1) Beliefs and Evidence and 2) Logic and Logistics. The former theme covered farmers’ attitudes and observations regarding the Scheme. The latter dealt with factors such as workload and costs. The Global themes allowed for comprehensive reporting of the strongest messages from focus groups. There was consensus that Scheme measures for the minimum calving age and for weaning had a positive impact on welfare. Two aspects criticized by participants were firstly disbudding, due to the logistics for anaesthetic application, and secondly the administrative workload associated with data capture and utilisation. The majority anticipated that data being collected via the Scheme would help to inform farm management decisions in future. Conclusions: Farm animal welfare schemes, which incentivise participants to implement certain practices, aspire to long-term behavioural change after scheme conclusion. Our research showed that this Scheme increased farmer awareness of the benefits of certain practices. It also demonstrated the importance of stakeholder participation in the design stages of welfare initiatives to ensure scheme measures are practical and relevant, to address any perceived controversial measures, and to plan for training and adding value to schemes.