Be it poultry, beef, pork, fish or shellfish, one of the major challenges of modern animal husbandry across the globe is the sustainable, efficient improvement of animal welfare. This term refers to a number of factors that indicate improvement in animal welfare, including barn climate, behaviour, health and hygiene. These are broadly based on the Five Freedoms developed by the UK Farm Animal Welfare Council: 1. Freedom from hunger and thirst; 2. Freedom from discomfort; 3. Freedom from pain, injury and disease; 4. Freedom to express normal behaviour; 5. Freedom from fear and distress. All these factors are closely related to a very important aspect of animal husbandry: feeding.
Feed additives can achieve a lot
Needs-based feeding is one of the main prerequisites for animal-friendly husbandry and healthy animals. Feed additives in particular can have a positive impact on critical animal welfare indicators. It is precisely here that plant-based feed additives, specially developed to sustainably improve animal welfare and support the implementation of various animal welfare measures, can help. Just like the tailor-made products of industry pioneer Dr Eckel Animal Nutrition.
In this way, producers can already target the well-being and health of the animals at the feeding stage. Phytogenic additives for instance support the animal’s own immune system or gastrointestinal health. This is not only beneficial to food intake, it also improves faeces consistency and consequently litter quality, barn hygiene and footpad health. Other plant extracts have a calming effect on stressed animals, reducing stress-related behaviour such as tail biting and feather pecking. Essential oils promote lung function. Ultimately, this can reduce the use of medication, particularly antibiotics. Feed additives make animals stronger, help increase their vitality and enhance their well-being. This enables them to cope better with the daily challenges of life.
Animal welfare pays off—for all
Such product solutions demonstrate that an animal-friendly, sustainable and profitable production is possible. Feed manufacturers acquire high-quality additives that meet the special requirements of modern feeding strategies. This enables them to provide their customers with effective solutions for improving animal welfare. Producers, breeders and farmers benefit from their animals’ stronger general condition and better performance. The result: increased efficiency and sustainability. And the animals themselves present fewer stress-related symptoms, fewer inflammations, a better immune system, and improvement in their well-being. That is how animal welfare starts with the feed.
No less than the future of the industry featured in this year’s trade conference. Sustainable, profitable and animal-welfare oriented: these are the guiding principles for tomorrow’s food production. But which is the path that will lead to success? What are the challenges that need to be overcome? And how can growers, producers, processors and retailers be economically viable while fulfilling all the requirements for animal welfare, the climate, the environment and resources? Speakers and participants addressed these major issues in talks and panel discussions.
Prof. Johanna Fink-Gremmels, Chair of Veterinary Pharmacology and Toxicology at Utrecht University, made the role of nutrition in animal health and welfare particularly clear in her talk, stating that, besides contributing significantly to stable health, proper nutrition is also a key factor for better performance, lower medical costs and consequently better returns. Dutch company New Generation Nutrition is also all about nutrition. In her talk, CEO Marian Peters clearly demonstrated how important insects could be to nutrition, both animal and human, in the future.
Dr Gereon Schulze Althoff, Head of Quality Management and Veterinary Services at Tönnies, provided exciting insights into the role of producers, in particular the responsibility and potential of the various stakeholders in the value chain. A visionary presentation by Dr Francesca Blasco, Vice President Product & Innovation, outlined how to achieve profitable and animal-friendly production. The conference culminated in a panel discussion, including the speakers and audience, on how the industry can find a balance between animal welfare and profitability.
“It was a great mix of high-calibre expert talks, inspiring debates and plenty of opportunity for discussions with international industry peers,” said Bernhard große Austing from Austing Mischfutterwerk GmbH & Co. KG, adding: “Animal welfare is no trivial matter. Rather, as amply demonstrated at this conference, it is a necessity. Only healthy animals can provide healthy food. Because ultimately, this is what the consumer wants and what our world needs in order to ensure sufficient food supplies in the future.”
We all know that management, animal production conditions and animal health are all crucial to animal welfare. Nevertheless, a major component is yet to be included: optimal feeding. “Feeding is one of the major factors in improving animal welfare and health,” states Dr Bernhard Eckel, Vice President Sales. “Feed additives make animals stronger, help increase their vitality and enhance their well-being. This enables them to cope better with the daily challenges of life.” Phytogenic additives are the hidden champions of animal nutrition. They stimulate the animals’ immune system, making them more resistant to diseases and external environmental factors, while also affecting barn hygiene and climate.
Reduce stress—improve animal welfare
Animals are exposed to the most varied of environmental factors every day. A case in point is stocking density, which often increases the occurrence of behavioural disorders such as feather pecking and tail biting. The right feed additives could help prevent this, consequently improving many of the indicators of animal welfare. Tail biting and feather pecking are actually among the greatest challenges in animal production: they adversely affect the animals’ welfare, resulting in injury, necrosis and rejection, as well as public opinion of the agricultural and meat industries.
Here, feed additives can help reduce stress and combat its symptoms. They ultimately benefit meat quality too, because only vital and healthy animals are happy animals that show the best performance.
What is good for us is also good for animals
Humans are the best example. We too frequently experience stress at work and try to reduce it in a number of ways. We sometimes employ traditional remedies, such as essential oils. Tea is also thought to help, as is the occasional glass of wine or beer. We can also use the positive effects of these plant constituents in livestock production.
Improved animal welfare—greater possibilities
Improving animal welfare is not only beneficial to the animal and meat quality; it is also beneficial to the entire value chain. This is because improved animal welfare increases livestock efficiency, thus saving resources, increasing margins and profits, and enabling the development of new markets and access to new customers.
With its animal welfare initiative, Dr. Eckel supports all the stakeholders along the value chain by improving crucial animal welfare parameters—starting with feeding—thus fulfilling social expectations and promoting animal performance. The aim is to develop sustainable solutions that are suitable for animals, humans and the environment. A transition to improved animal welfare can only be achieved by implementing an adapted and optimal feeding strategy with the right additives. Dr. Eckel is the first company to develop feed additives to specifically promote animal welfare. It focuses both on producing feed additives that have a beneficial effect on animal welfare and meat quality, and on sustaining the various animal welfare parameters through feeding. Dr. Eckel has demonstrated the effectiveness of its additives in numerous scientific and practice-oriented trials, and has been awarded several renowned innovation prizes.
Feeding is the first link in the food chain. It is therefore the starting point for measures that help improve animal welfare.