Advancing farm animal care
By National Farm Animal CouncilFeatures Research Welfare Business/Policy Poultry Production
November 9, 2011 – Speakers at the recent National Farm Animal Care Conference proposed a number of approaches to help advance farm animal care and welfare in Canada. Research, benchmarking, extension and verification were some of the components of an overall farm animal care strategy recommended to conference participants.
“Research shows effective information extension is the best way to improve animal welfare on farm,” said Jackie Wepruk, National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) general manager. “It’s not regulation and it’s not even third party audits – it’s effective information extension that really works.”
Dave Solverson, Alberta beef producer and Chair of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association Animal Care Committee encouraged continued animal welfare research. “Assumptions don’t work,” he said. “Research to improve and verify what we’re doing is very important.”
Benchmarking as a means for measuring improvements in animal welfare was covered by Dr. Ed Pajor, professor, animal behavior and welfare, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary. “Baselines and benchmarking animal welfare are important for the sustainability of agriculture. It’s becoming more and more expected — show me the program, show me the data, show me what you’ve done. But you know what? It’s really part of the tradition of agriculture,” said Pajor.
Dr. Ed Pajor also spoke about the successful application of assessment programs. He relayed the experience of one company that has invested in animal care assessment. “More attention to detail, more attention to the animal welfare issues on the farm, less issues coming into the plant. It’s simple economics,” said Dr. Pajor. Attention to detail has led to greater profitability. “We need plans in place that are feasible, affordable and also credible. There needs to be leadership from major players within the industry,” he said.
Practical ways to assure improved animal care on the farm were discussed by Dr. Anne Marie de Passillé, research scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. She shared two advisory tools for the dairy industry that include targets based on the Codes of Practice – one to improve calf rearing practices and another related to cow comfort. “We need to develop and implement on-farm advisory tools. We need tools to help the producers evaluate what they’re doing and see where they’re doing well and see where they can improve.”
Genetics is another consideration suggests Dr. David Fraser, animal welfare professor, University of British Columbia. “Animal welfare isn’t just about housing and husbandry skills. As important as those two things are, it is about a three-way interaction with genetics as a component,” he said.
Dr. Terry Whiting, manager animal health and welfare, Manitoba Agriculture and Food, Veterinary Services highlighted the need to develop an enforcement culture for farm animals. In Manitoba, for instance, the Codes of Practice are fully enforceable. “The Codes of Practices are a wonderful way to discourage bad behaviour even though they are written to encourage good behaviour,” he said. “If you construct your enforcement and compliance system correctly, you can also use the Codes of Practice to discourage bad behavior.”
The shared vision of what we are trying to achieve was summed up by Dr. Fraser as: “A comprehensive animal welfare assurance system reflecting Canadian values, based on science-informed national standards, and involving a suite of compliance activities sufficient to ensure domestic and international confidence in the welfare of farmed animals in Canada.”
More information on the conference, including complete speaker presentations, is available at www.nfacc.ca/conferences .
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