A qualitative study of Ontario dairy farmer attitudes and perceptions toward implementing recommended milking practices

J Dairy Sci. 2019 Oct;102(10):9548-9557. doi: 10.3168/jds.2018-15677. Epub 2019 Jul 17.


Recommended milking practices (RMP) are protective against mastitis. However, many producers do not adopt, or only partially adopt, these measures. This study aimed to explore the attitudes and perceptions of Ontario dairy farmers toward barriers to implementation of RMP and to investigate what motivates behavior change in relation to milking hygiene. Four focus groups with Ontario dairy producers were conducted, and verbatim transcripts were analyzed thematically. The main barriers to adoption of RMP were identified and categorized into 2 groups: intrinsic barriers and physical barriers. Intrinsic barriers included personal habits and convenience, not perceiving udder health as a priority on their farm, and lack of information. Physical barriers included employee training and compliance, convenience of implementing RMP, and time, money, and labor barriers. Producers used their bulk tank somatic cell count (SCC) as a measure of perceived severity of udder health problems on farm. Those with lower SCC were less likely to prioritize udder health compared with peers experiencing elevations in SCC. Lack of udder health problems translated for some producers into non-adoption of certain RMP, as they felt these practices were not needed unless a problem arose. Others felt motivated to implement more practices and work toward better udder health if such efforts translated into rewards for better-quality milk. Some producers perceived RMP as not meaningful or useful, seemingly due to a lack of education about the reasons behind RMP implementation. Understanding the importance of these practices is one key to implementing them. To overcome some of the intrinsic barriers, increased efforts in knowledge translation are needed, including efforts in retraining current practices, as well as in establishing best practices.

Keywords: attitude; barrier; mastitis; milking practices.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Attitude*
  • Cattle
  • Cell Count / veterinary
  • Dairying / methods*
  • Farmers / psychology*
  • Farms
  • Female
  • Hygiene*
  • Mammary Glands, Animal
  • Mastitis, Bovine / prevention & control*
  • Milk / metabolism*
  • Motivation
  • Ontario