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Innovation in Livestock production: Transferring and Adapting Knowledge on high animal welfare production

19.12.2018

Murilo Quintiliano, Executive Director, FAI do Brasil, and Oisten Thorsten, Director, FAI Global

Maintaining and improving high animal welfare standards is a fundamental need for the future of livestock production. Besides meeting the expectation of ethical practices and transparency from an increasingly well-informed public, poor animal welfare can significantly impact the productivity and profitability of a farm. Technology is already contributing to the achievement of better outcomes in animal welfare by facilitating its measurement and reporting on a vast number of UK farms. Here we discuss the opportunity for collaboration and knowledge transfer between UK and Brazil in order to realise Brazil’s opportunity of delivering high quality cage-free eggs, at competitive prices, in accordance with global best practices.

In this endeavour it is appropriate to look the experiences of the UK, the birthplace of the modern animal welfare movement. The publication of Ruth Harrison’s “Animal Machines” in 1964 triggered a movement of consumers, academics and industry practitioners all calling for and working towards more sustainable and ethical food production. One strength of this movement was how quickly it realized that progress could not be made by academic committees and activism alone. Practical solutions had to be invented for farmers and the food supply chain that would make it easier for them to produce animal based foods of high quality, at affordable prices whilst continuously reducing the environmental impact and improving the welfare of the animals.

In FAI Farms’ experience a critical step toward improving farming practices and animal welfare across large supply chains is the collection of reliable metrics. Welfare Outcome Measures (WOMs) offer one such management tool, providing objective, robust information about the life of the animal and the environment in which it lives. Measurements relating to factors such as mortality, disease, injury, mobility and behaviour of animals can be collected along the supply chain, from farm to slaughter. This data can be made available via central data portals to inform decision-making at every stage, right through to retailers and then on to consumers.

In the case of egg production, our experience is that WOMs can drive improvements across the supply chain by highlighting risk areas and informing intervention where it is most needed – for example by recognising good practice and rolling out standards, changing production requirements as a condition of supply and investing in R&D projects. This can help to reduce animal disease, improve understanding of animal welfare and deliver more sustainable food production.

Digital technology is at the core of tools employed for data capture, analysis and distribution, and as such plays a crucial role in driving well-informed action that ultimately helps improve animal welfare standards. Some welfare measures are becoming automated in their collection and we are exploring further opportunities to develop sensors and smart cameras to automatically measure animal behaviour on farm.

With its natural resources and environmental conditions Brazil has the capacity to be a leading producer of yet another animal derived product – eggs. However, as several food companies and retailers are making global commitments to a cage-free egg supply chain by 2025, UK companies are in a particular good position to share their experiences of scaling new production practices. With increased public demand for an ethical approach to animal welfare on our farms, good, reliable data will help provide evidence that improved conditions for animals are an achievable goal, thus incentivising the whole industry to strive for better standards.

Figure 1 FAI Farms’ approach to improving farming practice, supported by Welfare Outcome Measures (WOMs)

Categorias: Blog

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