»Animal Welfare is no trivial matter«

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.”

Dispense with docking: how feeding can help

The EU Commission banned all interventions on animals that are not curative, that is, necessary for the treatment of a disease, as early as 2008. However, the Member States did not take this ban very seriously so far. Last year, the EU Commission conducted audits in various countries and found that the measures adopted in Member States—including Germany—were insufficient. The Commission is now calling on the individual states to rectify this.

The German Federal Conference of Agriculture Ministers has taken this as an opportunity to develop measures and launched an action plan that would permit dispensing with docking in the long term. The action plan provides for the individual optimisation of animal production conditions and management on farms. This should gradually dispense with tail docking. North Rhine-Westphalia is the first federal state where the action plan will enter into force. As from 1 July 2019, all pig farms that persist in keeping docked pigs must submit a declaration justifying the indispensability of docking.

This declaration shall include a risk analysis documenting the optimisation measures adopted to avoid tail biting and other injuries. One major factor however needs to be considered further: feeding. For animal welfare starts with feed.

Studies have shown that feeding can minimise animals’ stress level and consequently stress-related behavioural disorders, one of the main reasons for tail biting. This way, important adjustments can be made early on. 


Read more: How feed additives can help to reduce both stress and tail-biting