Some good news on animal welfare

Jean L Clavelle

Lately my professional world seems to be focusing on the negative – on everything that’s not happening, how agriculture seems to be under constant attack, what we are not doing that we should. Today, I’ve decided to focus on the positive. I wanted to share some of the great work that our local and North American livestock ag community is doing for animal welfare.

To start, the 4th Annual International Beef Welfare Symposium is set to be held July 16 to 18 at Iowa State University (www.cpm.iastate.edu/beefwelfare) This conference was designed to offer producers, processors, retailers, government officials, NGOs, animal scientists, veterinarians and students the opportunity to discuss, debate and learn about the current and emerging welfare issues that face the beef cattle industry. Renowned beef cattle experts, bovine practitioners, philosophers and animal scientists will offer their insight and perspective and discuss the latest research findings during the invited presentations and poster session. Something that will benefit everyone involved in livestock agriculture and help to spread a positive message on the importance of animal welfare.

In my humble opinion, some of the best scientific work relating to beef cattle welfare comes from our very own Dr. Joe Stookey – a researcher at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan.  Dr. Stookey and his group have been instrumental in understanding weaning stress in beef cattle and as a result have developed a weaning system called QuietWean that has been widely adopted by producers across North America (QuietWean.ca).  Small flaps are placed arpund the septum in the nose which prevents calves from nursing while still allowing the calf to eat and drink normally.  After a few days the calves are weaned and can be removed from the cow without the stress you would normally see at weaning.  A secondary outcomes of this research was a better understanding of how cows and calves can be separated efficiently and calmly.  To share this remarkable yet simple method, the group decided to create a video via YouTube (see the video here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4FUE-OrXRw#t=12). And how wonderful that practical science is now being shared via social media so it is accessible for everyone.

The Farm Animal Council of Saskatchewan (FACS) is an industry initiated group whose purpose is to promote animal welfare and responsible livestock and poultry management across the province.  Among many other educational events hosted annually, this spring FACS implemented a novel approach in educating horse owners on the recently revised Equine Codes of Practice.  Veterinarians hosted 6 sessions across the province to discuss the code while sharing important horse health and management strategies.  The seminars were extremely well received and helped to highlight optimal equine welfare.

And speaking of Codes of Practice… the National Farm Animal Care Council has recently revised or is in the process of revising the Codes of Practice for all of the major livestock sectors.   These codes have multiple roles including education tools, reference materials for regulations and the foundation for species specific on-farm animal care assessment programs.  Codes are developed in partnership between producers, veterinarians, processors, governments, humane societies, retailers, animal welfare scientists and many others with responsibilities for farm animal welfare.  The result is that these codes are scientifically informed, practical, and reflect our society’s expectation for responsible farm animal care.  To see a complete list of the Codes go to nfacc.ca.

These are only a taste of what agriculture and industry stakeholders have been doing to evolve and improve farm animal welfare. And what I love about these examples is that they are a collaboration between multiples organizations – industry, producers, veterinarians, government and more – which is what truly needs to happen to improve animal welfare.  Way to ag, way to go.  This is something to be proud of.

 

To learn more about animal welfare research in Canada, animal welfare legislation or even if you just want to understand livestock production checkout livestockwelfare.ca

 

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