Animal Welfare, an Essential Value for the Farmer
Animal welfare, a real vector for production quality
With the advent of phenotyping and the taking into account of the environment (building ergonomics, comfort, cleanliness, space, access to feed rations, etc.) in the reproductive and productive functions of farm animals, with the taking into account of functional criteria, behaviour and health (udder or foot health, docility, vitality, longevity, etc.), and also with the magnificent progress in genetic assessment, animal welfare is now a real vector for production quality and the concept of corporate social responsibility.
Selection and reproduction companies are incorporating animal welfare much better now that this concept has already been the subject of research for many years. Indeed, the selection of cattle breeding animals is based on functional criteria linked particularly to health, longevity and behaviour such as udder health, ease of calving, vitality of the calf at birth, docility and temperament (reduction in the risk of injury due to aggression from other cattle), the polled gene as an alternative to horn removal, etc. So many criteria are translated into genetic value and listed officially by the French National Institute for Agricultural Research. For example, indexing of udder health has been available since 2010 combining all the data gathered on farms for ten years. Another example is the genetic assessment of Prim’Holstein male breeding animals for foot robustness, which is a strong vector for disease and deterioration in condition on dairy farms. The formidable progress in genetic assessment, not only in terms of selection but also of detection of anomalies, has considerably facilitated the incorporation of animal welfare on farms and in companies.
Technologies have not been outdone by the development of monitoring for physiological surveillance or the marketing of instruments with increased comfort for insemination procedures. In terms of farm management the ergonomic approach is now necessary as an optimisation factor. It is no longer rare to find grooming brushes in animal housing, anti-insect devices, heat comfort instruments (atomisers) and other things such as rubber mats to limit microtrauma and even relaxing music being broadcast.
This type of “hyper-quality approach” is based on farmers’ investment in their farm management and also their awareness of the challenges of prophylaxis, with particular attention being paid to the quality of bedding or calving hygiene. Insemination professionals are also trained in the quality of insemination environments, disinfection, restraint without stress, etc.
All this enables the normal behaviour of the animals to be expressed; play, easy access to food without competition or stress, etc. This is now perceived by professionals as factors for optimising welfare and thus production quality.