Our approach is based on interdisciplinary research and involves thinking about disease holistically in relation to farming practices and their wider contexts.
The biology of disease, its impact on society, and its history are typically considered separately by different academic disciplines. FIELD is different. It considers disease as both a biological and social phenomenon that shapes and is shaped by different farming systems, communities, and the wider world, in the past, present and future. We define farming communities in several different ways: as close neighbours, trading networks and wider communities (including networks of influence over space and time).
All of our research tasks are designed in response to questions, suggestions and requests from each of the three disciplines. We share ideas, insights and data, and we regularly review our findings together. This approach allows us to build an integrated picture of the factors affecting animal health and welfare (see the diagram below). Analysis of this picture will help us to better understand disease, develop more accurate tools for predicting it, and to make recommendations for how it could be managed.
FIELD's collaborators play a vital role as co-producers of knowledge, shaping the research focus and giving feedback
on our findings throughout the project.
Farming environments, communities, practices and regulations vary across Britain. FIELD is concentrating on one region - Northern England - so we have a consistent basis to work from.
We are using two endemic diseases as case studies:
- Lameness, which has a range of different causes and is significantly affected by individual farm environments and practices.
- Bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD), an infectious disease with a range of different effects, and the ability to spread from farm to farm.
These diseases are among the most common and costly endemic livestock diseases in Britain today. Their complex relationship with farming systems, communites and the wider world, makes them ideal subjects for interdisciplinary research.
For more about BVD and lameness see Frequently Asked Questions .