Livestock keepers' reasons for doing and not doing things which governments, vets and scientists would like them to do.
Farmers are rational. They do what makes sense to them in the particular circumstances of their farm, family and business. The challenge for those who want to influence farmers' behaviour - policy makers, veterinarians, public health professionals - is to understand their rationality, to gain some insight into how they see the world and the various options it offers to them. This study explores some of the reasons that emerge from recent research on why their decisions are not always the ones that other people expect or want them to take. These include differences in values, motivations, social influences and behavioural types. Also relevant is how farmers view the sources from which advice and information are seen to come: some advice is rejected simply because a farmer does not see the person or organization as a trustworthy source. It is now widely accepted that farmers' motivations for continuing what they are doing, and for changing what they are doing, are not simply economic or financial. Their decisions cannot be predicted on the basis of simplistic notions of 'economic rationality'. While costs and returns are clearly important in weighing up choices (and farm management economics has given us several useful tools and methodologies for analysing these), farmers operate within a social context that both constrains and facilitates their behavioural choices. They have complex sets of core values, just like anyone else, which will make some choices more attractive than others that are potentially more rewarding financially. It is therefore appropriate to look to the wider family of social sciences beyond economics, including sociology, psychology and social psychology, to help us understand more fully the factors that inform and influence farm-level decisions. And this improved understanding should make us better at designing policy and advisory interventions that will benefit farmers and society.