Opportunities to improve the health of farm animals - Veterinary Practice
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InFocus

Opportunities to improve the health of farm animals

The Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) published its Report on Farm Animal Welfare:
Health and Disease at the end of November.

The report aims, says the
committee, to highlight the welfare
issues that arise out of animal disease
and the opportunities for improved
animal health in the major species
of farm animals, and make
recommendations for improvements.

Christopher Wathes, chairman of
FAWC and professor of animal welfare
at the RVC, said in his introduction:
“There is now a considerable body of
scientific evidence that farm animals are
sentient and can suffer and therefore
the effects of disease on mental
wellbeing, e.g. fear, distress, anxiety, do
affect their welfare.

“By focusing on the direct impact
of disease on farm animal welfare and
understanding the interactions (positive
and negative) between physical and
mental health, the report highlights the
potential to reduce individual animal
suffering.”

He continued: “When disease does
occur, early recognition and rapid,
appropriate and effective treatment are
essential to reduce welfare impact.

“The Report also emphasises the
importance of the farm animal veterinary surgeon, who is second only
to the stock-keeper/stock-person in
ensuring that farm animals in Great
Britain are treated humanely. In FAWC’s
view, the veterinarian is the pivotal link
to continual improvements in farm
animal health and welfare.”

Among issues considered are:
responsibility and cost sharing; public
and private surveillance; resistance to
antibiotics and anthelmintics; breeding
for disease resistance; and the
veterinarian’s trilemma of duty to
animal, client and his own interests.

The report calls for new partnership
approaches to stimulate substantial
improvement in farm animal health.

In a section headed “Future
strategies to improve animal health and
welfare and the role of different
stakeholders”, the report says that the
veterinarian has a role as a trainer in
treatment and nursing skills and
underpinning knowledge to deliver key
competencies and ongoing professional
development to livestock keepers and
their staff.

“As the central advisor to the farm,
there is a role to co-ordinate other
advisors that may provide expert advice
to farms (for example, nutritionists) and
to assist the farmer to translate a mix of
messages into the best on-farm solution
for an individual business,” it says.

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