Holm, Wendy, & Dorte Bay Lastein (2021). A Q study: Exploring the purpose of transdisciplinary dairy advisory services in Denmark. Acta Veterinaria Scandinavica, 63, art. 44. 17 pp. (Open Access: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13028-021-00610-1)

Abstract: Background: Structural changes in dairy farming increase farm complexity, thereby inducing a need to combine herd health management, technological solutions, legislation, and human relations among farmers, farm workers, and advisors. This complex situation may require ‘transdisciplinary advisory service’, i.e., a highly integrated network of both non-academic and different academic disciplines. While working in these networks, advisors need to offer specialized knowledge from their own field, interact in a dynamic relationship between different types of professions and facilitate complex processes. The objectives of this study were: (1) to identify and describe different advisor and farmer styles based on their reasons to engage in transdisciplinary advisory services at farm-level, (2) to identify any possible conflicting perspectives between advisors and farmers’ demand, and (3) to discuss these styles and conflicts in the context and future of advisory services for dairy herd health and production management. Results: Using Q methodology, we explored the purpose of transdisciplinary advisory service on dairy farms. The results were derived from correlations between 40 statements for 25 advisors and 33 statements for nine farmers. We identified three similar styles among advisors and farmers, characterized as: (1) the teamwork and knowledge-focused style, (2) the production and economy-focused style, and (3) the economy and strategy-focused style. These styles included reflections on financial aspects, production, knowledge-exchange and the teamwork process itself. In addition, different emphasis on animal welfare, farm strategy and follow-up procedures between the styles became evident. Conclusions: This Q-study suggests three comparable styles between advisors and farmers. The main differences between the styles related to the teamwork process and purpose, follow-up process, financial aspects, farm strategy, and operational production objectives. Therefore, styles and expectations should be explored and discussed to create a mutual understanding within a farmer-advisor(s)-team, and to clarify the farmer’s needs and demands, and how the advisors can best meet these expectations. This study illustrates the importance of exploring different advisor and farmer styles to get a mutual understanding of the purpose of the transdisciplinary collaboration.

Wendy Holm <wh@lvk.dk> currently works in private veterinary practice in Hobro, Denmark. Dorte Bay Lastein <dorte.bay@gmail.com> is in the Section for Animal Production, Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Nutrition and Health, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.