Farmers have a duty of care to the wellbeing and health of their livestock. However, ensuring a high level of on-farm welfare isn’t just about ethics. Delivering high animal welfare is key to developing productive, repeatable farming practices that help build strong agricultural organisations.
There’s an emotional side to animal welfare. But there is clearly a productivity side, too, with healthy animals typically producing healthier food products, facilitating food safety, and helping to protect both human health and community livelihood.
Unfortunately, there are several obstacles standing in the way of achieving high levels of animal welfare. And one of the biggest is disease. The introduction of zoonotic diseases to the farm is a constant and continual risk throughout the year, and can result in illness, both physical and emotional suffering, as well as an increased mortality rate.
This demonstrates just how closely animal welfare and biosecurity are linked. The two go together, to a degree where it’s incredibly challenging – if not impossible – to protect the welfare of livestock without implementing robust biosecurity measures.
The importance of biosecurity
Highly transmissible pathogens can enter farms in a number of ways, from introduction through wild animals to vehicles, boots, and hands. Once present on the farm, disease can spread quickly, resulting in major declines in animal welfare.
Biosecurity addresses this issue in three distinct ways:
1. Reducing the risk of disease entering the farm
2. Reducing the risk of disease spreading to healthy livestock
3. Reducing the impact of disease on animal welfare
The term ‘biosecurity’ refers to a set of tailored management practices that have been designed to meet the specific protection needs of each individual farm. These practices, once implemented, work to support farmers as they strive to create healthy environments for their animals and maintain the welfare of their livestock.
To achieve the highest level of biosecurity – and subsequently, the highest level of animal welfare – farmers must consider three elements: conceptual, structural, and procedural actions that all come together to deliver the most robust protection.
Maximising Welfare: For Animals and Farmers
Many studies have been conducted to explore the connection between animal welfare and biosecurity. One of the most interesting, published by Cambridge University, concluded that improved on-farm cleanliness and the enhancement of facilities and housing through better biosecurity were able to increase welfare in pigs and reduce the need to administer antimicrobial treatment.
However, the link between biosecurity and welfare doesn’t end with improved animal welfare. It can have a big impact on farmer welfare, too. Not only can watching the health and welfare of animals decline have a huge psychological effect on farm workers, but the added worries stemming from reputational damage, production losses, and an inability to meet customer demand can also affect farmers. Knowing you’re doing everything you can to protect the welfare of your animals can significantly help to protect your own wellbeing, and that of your staff.
At Livetec, we’re working closely with farmers around the country to design, develop, and deliver customised biosecurity plans centred on animal welfare.
Click here to contact the Livetec team today.