May 8, 2020

How Veterinarians Can Use the Risk Assessment and Management Plan to Motivate On-Farm Change

Johne’s disease (JD) is an important production-limiting disease on dairy farms in Canada. We know that effectively managing this disease, and most diseases for that matter, require producers and veterinarians to work together, and to make a tailored action plan to address on-farm challenges with biosecurity.   This need to control and prevent JD led to the creation of the Ontario Johne’s Program. And while the program is no longer active, many lessons learned can still be applied on farm. The first step is testing the herd for JD, followed by the removal of high-positive animals. Veterinarians can use the JD Risk Assessment and Management Plan (RAMP) to look at on-farm management of the herd and devise recommendations for changes to prevent and control the spread of JD. Importantly, it’s all about using the RAMP questions to guide conversations with producers to uncover their knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours surrounding JD. Armed with this information, veterinarians can tailor their messages and be more effective advisors. The JD message cannot be the same for everyone as different farmers have different mindsets and priorities. A tailored approach is best, and that all starts with having an understanding of client mindset.



Here are some specific tips for improving advisor communication:

  • Use the RAMP as a guide
    • Use the RAMP as a conversation starter, rather than a strict discussion guide. This can create a more complete picture of on farm management and routine, by allowing the farmer to discuss their day-to-day routines while the veterinarians prompt for further information that is needed to complete the RAMP. Also, asking more open-ended questions, rather than yes/no questions, the farmer can share their mindset, frustrations, and questions better
  • Focus on seeing things from the producer’s’ perspective
    • Find out what their motivators are to making changes (i.e. cow health, image of milk industry, link to human health, etc.)
  • Be positive
    • Discuss what has been done well and what can be improved upon
    • This can be supplemented with what their peers or other farmers have done
  • Discuss the time commitment and money investment to make changes
    • Most changes only take a few minutes and are relatively inexpensive
  • Communicate the benefits of even small on-farm management changes
  •  Figure out how your producers would like to receive information and tailor your approach
    • Verbal, written recommendations, group meetings with peers, etc.

The role of the veterinarian is changing. They must work to filter and interpret information for their clients to coach for on-farm change. Veterinarians are part of the farm team and can work together with producers to prevent the spread of JD.

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