First coaching in Belgian pilot farms starting in July 2022 !


Belgium chose coaching as the supporting measure (SM) to be tested in belgian farms, to improve biosecurity compliance. First farm visits are starting now. We asked the NetPoulSafe belgian team about how they implemented this coaching.

Can you explain what farmer coaching is and how it can be useful for the farmers you wil follow up ?

Farmers’ willingness to make any kind of changes play an important role in improving biosecurity. It is difficult to achieve a sustained change in behavior by conventional advising process (traditionally performed by the veterinary consultant).

Coaching is the process of helping individuals to identify their goals through non-directive questioning and interaction (Marcdante et al, 2018). During coaching the role of the coach is to facilitate changes in the attitude of the farmer to motivate compliance to biosecurity measures. Coaching is therefore a solution-oriented  process and focusses on improving  the future performance.

Why did you choose coaching as the supportive measure (SM) to test in Belgium ?

From the preliminary WP2 results, a list of desirable SMs was made. The desirable SMs were categorized based on species/ sectors and farmers preferences. Based on the farmer preference, COACHING was chosen as the supportive measure to be tested. Individual guidance and coaching of farmers has been proven in previous studies to be effective in improving biosecurity levels.

How many farmers did you recruit, how do you intent to recruit in total ?

We have recruited the complete set of 18 pilot farms that was initially agreed in the project.

Which kind of farmers did you recruit, how and why you did recruit them ?

  • We have recruited farmers of the following sectors : Enclosed broiler, enclosed layer, turkey, free-range layer, breeders and hatchery.
  • Recruitment of farms was done by telephone calls. An informed consent was signed by the pilot farms during the first visit.
  • The selection of some pilot farms for task 3.3 was based on the assessment that was made during the data collection of WP 2. Some farms that had recurring issues (Salmonella, coccidia) were included as pilot farms as well. Motivation and willingness to participate in all activities was one of the selection criteria.

Can you explain how the process of coaching will be organised ?

Firstly each pilot farm will be visited to perform 2 kinds of analyses :

  1. The biocheck.UGent questionnaires will be filled to score biosecurity compliance.
  2. A semi-structured interview questionnaire will be filled for estimating farmer-specific profiles (ADKAR® and PARTAGE combined attitude assessment tool)

Based on the results of these analyses the Coach along with the NF and the veterinary consultant will formulate an improvement plan with focus on areas that scored low. The coach together with farmer and vet will make a plan that is realistic for the farmer with specific goals and a time line to follow up.

How many meetings there will be during the period and with whom ?

In total each pilot farm will be visited 3-4 times. During the first visit the the initial evaluation will be performed. During the second visit the coach will discuss improvement options with farmer (other workers) and vet and will define the goals and the time line for the action plan. Sometimes an additional visit may be included for expert advice, follow up or for solution based demonstration. On the fourth visit the final evaluation will happen after six months.

Belgium will have one coach that will follow up all farms, assisted by the NF and veterinarians to use additional tools to demonstrate water quality, efficiency of C&D, etc..

How are you going to evaluate the progresses of the farmer during the coaching ?

The progress of the pilot farms will be evaluated by comparing the results of first and second Biocheck and ADKAR evaluation. We look forward to assess to what extent improvements have been made in farm biosecurity (e.g. any new investment made, new consturction, purchase of material for improving biosecurity, new biosecurity plans, etc..).

Who will be the coach ?

The pilot farms will have one coach who is Hilde van Meirhaeghe from VETWORKS and assisted by the network facilitator for Belgium, Arthi Amalraj.

Does it need a specific training of specific skill to be a good coach ?

The task of the coach is to stimulate and ask the right questions to get the farmer out of their comfort zone so they can learn and develop. The coach must be able to ask questions from a sincere curiosity and interest in the farmer and their problems. It is important to ask questions that make the farmer really think through situations and problems; i.e. open exploratory and observatory questions. Several models and techniques can been used for coaching. The personnel involved in coaching for this project do not have prior experience other than giving veterinary expert advice.

On 17,18 and 19 January 2022, an on-line workshop on coaching: theory and practical  was organized for the consortium in which Nele Caekebeke from UGENT gave detailed instructions and guidance on how to perform coaching. The slideshow on «Coaching towards improved biosecurity levels » is available on the NETPOULSAFE’s project website under the WP 3 folder «Training on Coaching».

What do you expect from this experience ?

During the workshop on general coaching, all the NF’s and coaches gained information on the general basic skills needed for coaching. The training provided the necessary insight on basics, communication styles,  challenges and goals of coaching. 

Do you have anything to add ?

We are planning to complete the first pilot farm visits in June and start the coaching process in July.

Thanks a lot Arthi and Hilde !


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