Since 2003, the Sustainable Control Of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) group have provided the UK sheep farming industry with guidance on ways to mitigate the development and dissemination of anthelmintic resistance (AR). However our empirical understanding of sheep farmers’ influences towards such ‘best practice’ parasite control approaches is limited, and therefore requires further assessment and evaluation to identify the potential factors influencing their implementation. In 2015, a telephone questionnaire was conducted in order to elicit Scottish sheep farmers’ attitudes and behaviours regarding the SCOPS recommended practices, as well as gauging farmers’ general attitudes to gastrointestinal nematodes (GIN; term roundworm used in questionnaire) control. A quantitative structural equation modelling (SEM) approach was employed to determine the influences of socio-psychological factors and the uptake of individual anthelmintic resistance mitigating practices including: the implementation of a quarantine strategy for parasite control and the use of parasite diagnostic testing for monitoring faecal egg counts (FEC) and detecting AR. The proposed models established a good fit with the observed data and explained 61%, 54% and 27% of the variance in the adoption of AR testing, FEC monitoring, and quarantine behaviours respectively. The results presented highlight a number of consistent and distinct factors significantly influencing the implementation of selected SCOPS recommended practices. The negative influences of topography and farmer experience was frequently demonstrated in relation to multiple GIN control practices, as well as the positive influences of social norms, worm control knowledge, AR risk perception and positive attitudes to the services provided by the veterinary profession. Factors that were shown to have the greatest relative effects on individual parasite control practices included: the perceived expectation of others (i.e. Social norms) for implementing a quarantine strategy, farmer's suspicions to the presence of AR on the holding for instigating AR testing and the confirmation of AR for adopting FEC monitoring. Determining the influences of behaviour-specific factors on farmers’ decision making processes will help to identify and address positive and negative influences concerning implementation of AR mitigating practices, as well as contribute to the development of more evidence based intervention strategies in the future.
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- Parasite control
- Structural equation modelling