Farmers value autonomy in the management of their farm. Amongst organic farmers especially, autonomy is thought to contribute to the success of the farm. Wider integrated farming systems however oppose such autonomy by making farm management decisions remotely. One of the greatest threats to the success of meat sheep farms is the presence of parasitic gastrointestinal nematodes. This study questioned whether a greater level of farmer autonomy could be correlated to the better control of the gastrointestinal nematode infections and whether this could be associated with farmer specific health beliefs. Data was collected across 36 meat sheep farms with similar climatic variables but with different beliefs and attitudes to health care in farming. These farms fell within three groups: French organic, French conventional and Algerian conventional farms. Information regarding farmers' health beliefs and their level of autonomy in management was gathered using questionnaires to address autonomy in the following variables: agriculture production, husbandry, feed, therapeutics, commercialization, and farmers' education. The intensity of gastrointestinal nematode infections was also measured on each of these farms using faecal egg counts on composite sheep samples. Statistical and correlation analyses of autonomy variables to gastrointestinal nematode infection intensities were carried out. The results showed farmer autonomy was not associated with better gastrointestinal nematode control in any of the three groups of farms studied. Greater level of autonomy in husbandry and therapeutics specifically were associated with greater levels of infection. Farmers across the 36 farms studied were unanimously concerned about the threat gastrointestinal nematodes present to their flocks. Yet their current knowledge was clearly not sufficient to control infections irrespective of their health beliefs. This paper makes suggestions to facilitate communication with farmers and to improve the integration of gastrointestinal nematode control measures.
Cabaret, J., Chylinski, C., Meradi, S., Laignel, G., Nicourt, C., Bentounsi, B., Benoit, M, The trade-off between farmers' autonomy and the control of parasitic gastro-intestinal nematodes of sheep in conventional and organic farms, Livestock Science, Volume: 181 Pages: 108-113 Published: NOV 2015.