Books open.jpg

FIELD undertakes research activities within three disciplinary clusters: Economics and Epidemiology, Social Science, and History.

Each cluster draws on, and contibutes to, the work of the others. This is the interdisciplinary dynamic that drives our research. Frequent full-team meetings provide a platform for this exchange. These are combined with regular contact with our collaborators to check the practical relevance of our work.

For more information about the methods used in each cluster, see below.

Economics and Epidemiology

This cluster combines the tools of economics and epidemiology to explore the interactions between a range of factors that influence disease management, and the choices and trade-offs consumers and farmers make regarding livestock disease.

The FIELD economists are examining how farmer decision-making is affeced by their past experiences of disease, health and welfare priorities, and their perceptions and evaluations of disease management methods.

We are also investigating consumer preferences for higher welfare products, and the priority that consumers place on welfare relative to other product attributes. By conducting a choice experiment, we will evaluate how consumer perceptions translate into purchasing decisions.

Working with the economists, the FIELD epidemiologists will develop computer simulation models to gain a better understanding of the spread of disease and the effectiveness of control measures. These models will incorporate spatial interactions amongst farmers, and findings from the other disciplinary clusters regarding the effects of social pressures, economic incentives, sources of information about disease and past experiences of it. They will help us to improve disease predictions.

Research in this cluster includes:

  • Conducting a farmer survey of farm animal health
  • Organising a 'food busk' to identify public perceptions of livestock health
  • Conducting a consumer survey of willingness to pay for farm animal health and welfare
  • Creating farm network models to examine the relationships between farmer decision-making and disease control across spatially and trade-related communities.


This history team is studying the health and production of sheep and cattle in Britain since 1947. The goals are to advance the understandings of the past, and to reveal the influence of history and memory on farming today. The questions we ask are informed by research performed by social scientists into current animal health and welfare knowledge-practices. We will assist economists' and epidemiologists' predictions of disease in the future by identifying the factors that have shaped it in the past.

We are aiming to discover how BVD and lameness were experienced, understood and managed in the past. We are also exploring changes in farming practices because these both shape and were shaped by livestock health. To better understand these developments, we are working to uncover who gave what advice to whom about farming and livestock health.

Research in this cluster includes:

  • A programme to digitise historical agricultural images and films in collaboration with the Museum of English Rural Life
  • The creation of a new collection of life-story recordings with farmers and their expert advisors
  • Analysis of primary source materials, including oral histories, journal articles, advertising material, the popular and farming press, government publications and correspondence.

Social Science

This cluster is studying how farmers, farm advisors, and consumers perceive and respond to livestock disease today. This includes understanding how they view each other's standpoints. We are working to uncover farming knowledge-practices related to animal health and welfare. We are also generating in-depth understandings of human-animal relationships in livestock farming, and how they shape and are shaped by animal health and welfare.

To explore the relative standpoints of the different stakeholders, we are applying social science analysis to findings produced by historians, economists and epidemiologists. Our analysis explores the real-world context of disease, and considers a range of influences on farming practices, including changes in agricultural policy and consumer demands.

Research in this cluster includes:

  • A survey of farmers to learn about farm management practices
  • In-depth interviews with farmers and farm advisors
  • Focus groups with farmers and consumers
  • Farm walks to understand the real-world context of disease
  • A knowledge-exchange workshop with rural advisors.

Together we will:

  • Create a novel interdisciplinary method of studying disease, which embeds social science and history in the construction of epi-economic disease models
  • Develop new ways of thinking about the links between livestock diseases, farming systems, and communities
  • Produce recommendations for ways to promote livestock health and welfare
  • Generate new ways of thinking about human-animal relationships and how they influence animal health and welfare
  • Gain insights into how farmers, farm advisors and consumers think about livestock health and welfare
  • Gain insights into how farmers, farm advisors and consumers perceive each other's attitudes to livestock health and welfare
  • Develop better understandings of how the geographical interaction between farmers can affect disease transmission