Feeding is an important aspect of animal welfare

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.

Animal welfare in Germany mediocre

World Animal Protection (WAP) publishes international animal welfare ranking based on its assessment of animal welfare standards in 50 countries. Sweden and Austria came in first.

World Animal Protection, with headquarters in London, has been working to improve animal welfare for more than 30 years. The NGO has assessed the animal welfare policies and legislation of a total of 50 countries worldwide and ranked them from A (the highest score) to G in its Animal Protection Index (API). The indicators considered include general awareness of animal welfare, national legislation and political support for animal welfare standards concerning pets, animals used in farming and animals used in research. According to the API, Sweden, Great Britain and Austria achieved the highest scores. The ‘B’ grade they were awarded shows that animal welfare in these countries is at a very high level but there is still room for improvement in certain areas. However, countries such as Morocco, Iran, Algeria and Belarus are still missing an essential basic legal framework for animal welfare or at least formal recognition of animal welfare in their existing legislation.

Germany, which only obtained a mediocre ‘C’ grade overall and a ‘D’ for its efforts in protecting animals used in farming, is on a par with France, Poland, Spain and Italy. This shows that there is still much that Germany and the other European countries can do. Although the economic, ecological and ethical importance of animal welfare has received increasing recognition in recent years, many industry stakeholders still lack direction when it comes to applying concrete measures. A useful rule of thumb is to start early and use all the available resources. This is why Dr. Eckel has long been focusing on measures to improve animal welfare, starting with feeding. The right feed additives can be a significant contribution to this.

Read more about the API and the results obtained by other countries here: https://api.worldanimalprotection.org.

Change ahead: South America

On her trip to South America, Sales Manager Diana Pestka encountered familiar and many exciting new developments.

The first stop on my trip back to my former adopted country was Chile, a country often described as one of the most progressive countries in South America. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why animal welfare and nutrition, and natural and sustainable food production have meanwhile here become the major issues they are in Europe. People at all levels of society are becoming increasingly aware of the consequences of antibiotics in animal feed and the effects they may have on humans. Consequently, those who can afford it value healthy eating.

Alternatives to antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) are currently a major issue in Peru too. The supermarket chains are leading here, with their demand for antibiotic-free animals from poultry farmers. Legislation is following suit and has recently amended the AGP regulations. Although old registrations can still be renewed, no new registrations will be accepted in future. What is interesting is that less than 20 per cent of Peruvian broilers are slaughtered prior to sale—most are still sold alive at domestic markets.

In Ecuador, the industry and producers have to contend with difficult structures and low prices, and are looking for alternative markets to which to export their meat. In contrast, the upturn in the shrimp industry along Ecuador’s coast is both impressive and encouraging. Long-established medium-sized feed manufacturers, most of which have since been acquired by international companies, have evolved into large companies. Domestic suppliers in Ecuador have so far been unable to manufacture enough shrimp feed. However, this is expected to change in the coming years due to high investment in the expansion of a number of production facilities. Shrimp exports have already become an important element of Ecuador’s export statistics and have even exceeded banana exports in terms of US dollars.

This is an exciting time for South America. Between emerging domestic companies and investing large multinationals, there is a wealth of opportunity that appreciably drives and encourages the local feed industry. And we are eager to see how this development will proceed in the coming years.