Boehringer Ingelheim
Boehringer Ingelheim - Farm Animal Well-Being

On 1st June 2012, Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health celebrated the 5th anniversary of its International Expert Forum on Farm Animal Well-Being in the heart of Lisbon. Over the years, this Forum has become a recognised discussion platform which facilitates communication and transfer of knowledge between veterinarians and animal scientists.

The 5th edition brought together about 100 veterinary practioners and industry experts on animal health, pain and behaviour from around the world. The diversity of backgrounds encouraged a multidisciplinary exchange of ideas.

The two topics discussed in detail this year were culling and pain at parturition.


Culling of farm animals and welfare implications

Boehringer Ingelheim - Farm Animal Well-Being

Dr. Suzanne Millman, Iowa State University, USA said that the topics of culling, euthanasia and mortality are becoming increasingly important to veterinarians and producers due to public scrutiny.

Dr Millman looked at the decision to kill on farm, and what assessment and factors farmers and veterinarians would consider prior to making the decision to either help the animal recover, carry out on farm euthanasia or transport to emergency slaughter.

Finally, Dr Millman touched upon the issue of culling low value but healthy animals, and in particular mentioned the fate of the dairy bull calf.

Culling factors and culling management strategies on dairy farms

Boehringer Ingelheim - Farm Animal Well-Being

Karen Lancaster, DairyCo, UK looked at herd replacement costs, and said that in reality this cost came second only to feed and forage costs.

Ms Lancaster said that a high herd replacement rate is a costly problem in terms of both finance and animal welfare, which is often not recognised on farm.

Looking at research carried out in the UK, Ms Lancaster said that the majority of culls were involuntary, meaning that producer did not choose to cull the cow for production reasons, but had to due to health or fertility issues.

To reduce herd replacements rates, Ms Lancaster said that a greater emphasis on herd health and heifer rearing is needed, to reduce involuntary culls due to disease and fertility and produce a well grown, healthy heifer.

Culling early or culling late – A trade off between farm profits and cow welfare?

Boehringer Ingelheim - Farm Animal Well-Being

Fritha Langford, SAC, UK looked at the trade-off between profits and cow welfare when culling cows.

Her research highlighted that on-farm culls were one of the most costly in terms of profits and welfare.

Dr Langford said that by improving the welfare of cows, through improved herd health management, the longevity of the herd increases as does the milk yield and the farmers choice for herd improvement, all of which will result in better financial returns.

Following on from the three presentations, a discussion took place among participants about the public perception of agriculture and the need to educate the consumer. The welfare of the dairy bull calf was also a much talked about topic.

Behavioural Changes Around Calving

Boehringer Ingelheim - Farm Animal Well-Being

Prof. Marina von Keyserlingk & Prof. Dan Weary, Animal Welfare Program, The University of British Columbia, Canada presented the results of a study looking at changes in behaviour of cows around calving.

They looked at cows preferences with regard to calving in an open pen, or a more private, enclosed space. One study found that cows preferred to calve in the latter area.

Another study looked at how often cows stood prior to calving. Although the amount of time stood prior and post calving did not appear to be much different than at other stages of lactation, the number of standing bouts, from two days before calving to the day of calving, increased dramatically.

Professor von Keyserlingk said that this suggested the cows were more restless, and suggested that special attention be placed on cow comfort in the maternity pen.

A further study looked at whether cows which became ill from metritis post calving displayed abnormal behaviour leading up to and around calving.

The study showed that cows that became ill had reduced feeding time and dry matter intake before calving compared to healthy cows.

Although more research needs to be done, this information could help early disease detection or help prevent disease, said Professor Weary.

Practical methods to reduce pain associated with obstetrical procedures in cattle

Boehringer Ingelheim - Farm Animal Well-Being

Dr. Kenneth Joubert, South-Africa a private practitioner from South Africa took a look at providing analgesia to cattle during the calving period. He looked at the various options available to producers, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), opioids, alpha2agonists and local anaesthetics drugs.

With NSAIDs being one of the most widely used analgesics used in the industry, Dr Joubert said that NSAIDs provide little pain relief for primary pains, such as a surgical incision. He said they do alleviate secondary pain, but that additional analgesia should be provided for painful procedures and surgery.

Pain and discomfort associated with caesarean section in cattle

Boehringer Ingelheim - Farm Animal Well-Being

Dr. Cathy Dwyer, Scottish Agricultural College, Edinburgh, UK presented the results of a study that looked at the effect of meloxicam on cow behaviour following caesarean section (C-section).

In particular the research wanted to see if there were any effects on the maternal behaviour on beef cattle, whether the administration of meloxicam could mitigate post-partum pain and discomfort associated with a C-section.

To assess this, the team chose to look at activity related behaviour. It determined that meloxicam increased the total lying time of cattle after C-section and the number of bouts in the first 24 hours, compared to cows receiving a placebo. Commonly this would be associated with pain, however Dr Dwyer believes this may not be the case. She said that lying behaviour in post-partum C-section cows may not be indicative of pain, and encouraged further research to better understand discomfort at parturition.

Dr Dwyer said that to tackle the issue of post-partum pain in cattle (operative or not), more research is needed to develop validated pain measurements.

Use of NSAIDs around calving

Boehringer Ingelheim - Farm Animal Well-Being

Prof. Todd Duffield, University of Guelph, ON, Canada discussed a number of studies carried out looking at the use of different types of NSAIDs analgesia on dairy cows at parturition.

His main conclusion was not to use funixide meglumine on the day of calving, as it increased the chances of retained placenta.

He also demonstrated that the use of meloxicam affected feeding behaviour, increasing visits to the feedbunk and the time spent their.

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