On the economic preferences towards farm animal health and welfare

Rodrigues, Maria Suella (2023) On the economic preferences towards farm animal health and welfare. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In this thesis, I study consumer and producer preferences towards farm animal health and welfare (FAHW), in the context of two endemic diseases Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) in cattle and lameness in sheep. Whilst BVD is an infectious disease, lameness is primarily a disease of management and as such, perceived and managed differently by farmers. Throughout the animals’ lifetime, these diseases are a source of several health issues, leading to early death in the case of BVD and are also costly for the farmer. Thus, both of these two endemic diseases have emerged high on the priorities list in the Agricultural Act 2020. However, each country has different legislation regarding disease management in livestock. Whilst England has an industry led voluntary scheme for the eradication of BVD (in cattle) that started in 2016, Scotland has in place a mandatory BVD eradication Scheme set out in the Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (Scotland) Order 2019. The fact that both of these endemic diseases have severe health implications for the infected livestock but are not known to have any adverse effects for humans consuming their products, makes them apt objects for studying consumers and farmers preferences towards FAHW.

I have modelled consumer and producer preference towards FAHW using discrete choice experiments. For each respondent type (i.e. farmer and consumer) I run two surveys. The analysis for the consumer study uses hypothetical stated preference experiments related to four products: beef and milk, and lamb and wool. The first consumer study finds that UK respondents care about farm animal health and welfare independently of the sickness level in herds/flocks, when the sickness levels are known not to compromise the safety of the products consumed, as shown by their willingness to pay (WTP) to ensure it. The second consumer study was conducted a year later at the height of the COVID19 pandemic. My study aimed to model again consumer preferences towards FAH and FAW only this time in the presence of information asymmetry regarding food/product safety as well as increased financial uncertainty stemming from the ongoing pandemic. Respondents were divided into two sub-groups. The first treatment group (information treatment group) was given explicit food/product safety information whilst the second treatment group (no-information treatment group) was not given any food/product safety assurances. The results show that neither the COVID19 pandemic nor the presence of information asymmetry altered respondents’ preferences towards FAHW. Respondents showed a strong preference for higher animal health whilst also preferring higher animal welfare. However, the magnitude for WTP estimates for FAH and FAW although positive were found to be dependent on the food/product safety information. Yet, the WTP coefficients for the two treatment groups were not found to be statistically different.

Next, I modelled farmers’ preferences towards farm animal health and welfare in England and Scotland, using a discrete choice experiment. Respondents were divided into Cattle and Sheep farmers depending on their main source of agricultural income. A hypothetical farm management scenario was used to model farmers’ choices and the trade-offs they were willing to make in the presence of disease risk and financial uncertainty. Once again, the disease risk was studied in the context of two endemic diseases, Bovine Viral Diarrhoea (BVD) in cattle and lameness in sheep. The study found that farmers have statistically significant preferences for improvements in livestock health after controlling for expected returns and income uncertainty. Both English and Scottish farmers displayed a positive and separable benefit for lower levels of disease prevalence, however the magnitude of this result is disease specific. Interestingly enough, cattle farmers in England did not have statistically different preferences to cattle farmers in Scotland. However, sheep farmers in Scotland and sheep farmers in England were found to have statistically different preferences with regards to disease risk and financial uncertainty.

Finally, I also examined farmers’ cattle purchasing behaviour at auctions. The proposed discrete choice experiment (DCE) models buyer preferences towards cattle purchases at auction markets in England and in Scotland, in the context of BVD in cattle. The experiment is tailored according to each country’s individual legislation regarding BVD. This meant that English farmers’ preferences were modelled with respect to BVD disease status whilst Scottish farmers preferences were examined in terms of the different BVD testing measures available. I found that cattle farmers in England preferred purchasing BVD free cattle. Similarly, Scottish farmers also exhibited strong preference for BVD tests that were administered to the whole herd thus, minimising disease risk. Farmers in both countries seem aware of the consequences of BVD still, they were willing to engage in risky behaviour through the purchase of cattle with either unknown BVD status in England or with purchasing cattle that came from a herd where a sub-sample of calves only were tested. The study also found that farmers purchasing behaviour was influenced by seller characteristics.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Supported by funding from the Wellcome Trust.
Subjects: S Agriculture > SF Animal culture
S Agriculture > SF Animal culture > SF600 Veterinary Medicine
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
Supervisor's Name: Hanley, Professor Nicholas and Kao, Professor Rowland
Date of Award: 2023
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2023-83478
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 Mar 2023 11:05
Last Modified: 10 Mar 2023 11:08
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83478
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/83478

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