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What veterinarians need to know about communication to optimise their role as advisors on udder health in dairy herds

Authors: Renes RJ, Hogeveen H, Lam TJGM, Jansen J, van den Borne BHP
Publication: New Zealand Veterinary Journal, Volume 59, Issue 1, pp 8-15, Jan 2011
Publisher: Taylor and Francis

Animal type: Cattle
Subject Terms: Veterinary profession, Milk, Mastitis, Finance/economics, Farm/farm management, Education/communication, Animal health programs
Article class: Review Article

The veterinary practitioner is one of the most important advisors for farmers in the field of udder health. He or she has the tools to improve udder health if farmers are motivated to do so. Many farmers think that udder health is important, but this does not always mean that management of mastitis is up to standard. Many veterinarians are of the opinion that they are unable to convince their clients of the possible profits to be gained from investing in management of mastitis. Something is required to bridge this gap. This article, based on data and experiences from The Netherlands, describes the communication issues that can be considered in order to improve the role of the veterinarian as advisor, to achieve better udder health. The outcome is beneficial for both farmers and veterinarians, the former for reasons of economics, welfare and ease of work; the latter because it creates extra, challenging work. It is concluded that the veterinary practitioner is in an ideal situation to advise and motivate farmers to improve udder health but, to do this, the means of communication need to take account of the different learning styles of farmers. The most important aspects of such communication are found to be a pro-active approach, personalisation of messages, providing a realistic frame of reference for the farmer, and use of the farmer's social environment. Importantly, all persons and organisations in a farmer's social environment should articulate the same message.

KEY WORDS: Communication, mindset, mastitis, motivation,veterinarian

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