The impacts of disease outbreak in beef cattle on the mental wellbeing of livestock farmers and connectedness in the farming community.

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Abstract

Introduction

The challenging living and working conditions that farmers face can have a major impact on their mental health. Livestock disease can affect farm production and sustainability as well as animal welfare and, in some cases, public health. Studies have shown the mental health impact of outbreaks of Foot and Mouth (refs) but less is known about the impact of endemic diseases.

Methods

Interviews with 12 livestock farmers were conducted in Scotland between Jan-Feb 2018. Transcripts were analysed using nVivo12 to identify impacts of livestock disease experiences on mental wellbeing and to identify supportive community connections.

Results / Discussion

Farmers report a sense of inevitability and lack of control in relation to livestock disease. Farmers describe their experiences of livestock disease in strong, emotive terms, such as; catastrophic, awful, a nightmare, and the most unsatisfying, disheartening thing in the world. The experience causes stress and farmers report that they get demoralised, not least because it is time consuming and labour intensive. There can be a lack of transparency within the farming community in relation to livestock disease but when farmers co-operate with each other, trusting relationships can develop. Neighbouring farmers who work together, such as in securing boundary fences to prevent contact between herds of cattle, find an increased sense of empowerment in controlling disease. Farmers who have strong connections with their vet and trusted peers benefit from increased access to information and advice and can feel less isolated, especially when facing disease related challenges.

Conclusion

Farmers experience a range of challenges which can have a negative impact on their wellbeing, such as; workload, witnessing and culling sick animals, and lone working in isolated, rural locations. There are benefits of farmer-vet and farmer-farmer connections in preventing and managing livestock disease and in improving mental health.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPrint publication - 12 Aug 2019
EventRural Mental Health Conference: Tackling Isolation and Fostering Connections - Scotland, INVERNESS, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Aug 201913 Aug 2019
https://www.ruralnetwork.scot/rural-mental-health-conference-tackling-isolation-and-fostering-connections

Conference

ConferenceRural Mental Health Conference: Tackling Isolation and Fostering Connections
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityINVERNESS
Period12/08/1913/08/19
Internet address

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