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Lameness in sheep, the majority of which is caused by footrot, is a major welfare problem and source of economic loss to the sheep industry. It is estimated that at any one time around 10% of the national flock are lame, this equates to around three million sheep. My current project focuses on promoting a protocol for controlling footrot using rapid treatment of individual sheep with antibiotic injection. Previous research from our group has illustrated this approach is effective in reducing levels of lameness in lowland flocks to around 2%. Drawing on expertise from health psychology this project aims to understand farmers’ decisions relating to managing footrot in their flocks and design and test an intervention to promote the specified behaviour.

The project runs from Nov 2011 to Feb 2015. In the first year data on the factors shaping sheep farmers’ decisions about management of footrot will be captured in focus group discussions and one-to-one interviews with sheep farmers and industry experts. Interventions will be designed to promote the desired behaviour and in years two and three these will be tested in random control trials.

This project is funded by Defra and is conducted in collaboration with Eamonn Ferguson and Jasmeet Kaler at Nottingham University.