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Broken biosecurity?: veterinarians’ framing of biosecurity on dairy farms in England

Shortall, Orla; Ruston, Annmarie; Green, Martin J.; Brennan, Marnie L.; Wapenaar, Wendela; Kaler, Jasmeet


Orla Shortall

Annmarie Ruston

Martin J. Green

Marnie L. Brennan

Wendela Wapenaar

Professor of Epidemiology & Precision Livestock Informatics


There is seen to be a need for better biosecurity – the control of disease spread on and off farm – in the dairy sector. Veterinarians play a key role in communicating and implementing biosecurity measures on farm, and little research has been carried out on how veterinarians see their own and farmers’ roles in improving biosecurity. In order to help address this gap, qualitative interviews were carried out with 28 veterinarians from Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon farm accredited practices in England. The results were analysed using a social ecology framework and frame analysis to explore not only what barriers vets identified, but also how vets saw the problem of inadequate biosecurity as being located.

Veterinarians’ frames of biosecurity were analysed at the individual, interpersonal and contextual scales, following the social ecology framework, which see the problem in different ways with different solutions. Farmers and veterinarians were both framed by veterinarians as individualised groups lacking consistency. This means that best practice is not spread and veterinarians are finding it difficult to work as a group to move towards a “predict and prevent” model of veterinary intervention. But diversity and individualism were also framed as positive and necessary among veterinarians to the extent that they can tailor advice to individual farmers.

Veterinarians saw their role in educating the farmer as not only being about giving advice to farmers, but trying to convince the farmer of their perspective and values on disease problems. Vets felt they were meeting with limited success because vets and farmers may be emphasising different framings of biosecurity. Vets emphasise the individual and interpersonal frames that disease problems are a problem on farm that can and should be controlled by individual farmers working with vets. According to vets, farmers may emphasise the contextual frame that biosecurity is largely outside of their control on dairy farms because of logistical, economic and geographical factors, and so some level of disease on dairy farms is not entirely unexpected or controllable. There needs to be a step back within the vet-farmer relationship to realise that there may be different perspectives at play, and within the wider debate to explore the question of what a biosecure dairy sector would look like within a rapidly changing agricultural landscape.


Shortall, O., Ruston, A., Green, M. J., Brennan, M. L., Wapenaar, W., & Kaler, J. (2016). Broken biosecurity?: veterinarians’ framing of biosecurity on dairy farms in England. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 132,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 1, 2016
Online Publication Date Jun 4, 2016
Publication Date Sep 15, 2016
Deposit Date Oct 27, 2016
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2016
Journal Preventive Veterinary Medicine
Print ISSN 0167-5877
Electronic ISSN 1873-1716
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 132
Keywords Dairy biosecurity; Veterinarians; Decision making; Disease control; Frame analysis; Qualitative
Public URL
Publisher URL


Bioscurity paper _reresubmission_prev vet med.pdf (498 Kb)

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