Animal Health and Welfare Planning for Livestock Producers
The session was organised by the UK Partners of ANIPLAN (CORE Organic project 1903, funded in the UK be Defra) Stephen Roderick (Duchy College) and Pip Nicholas (IBERS). ANIPLAN has developed principles of animal health planning that hat should be an ongoing process of dialogue between the farmer and external experts. Pictures illustrated how natural dairy cow behaviour can be hindered by the structure of equipment. By reducing productivity animal health problems also have environmental implications. The importance of the human-animal relationship was highlighted. The discussion highlighted the potential contribution of farmer groups to improve health, such as the Danish "Stable School" approach currently piloted in on organic farms in Devon.
Mette Vaarst (Aarhus University) introduced 7 principles of good animal health planning developed by the ANIPLAN project (Health planning is a process of dialogue between the farmer and external expertise that involves assessment of the current situation as well as a plan. There is need for farmer ownership as well as external expertise, the framework of organic principles, the need to for a plan to be written and including an acknowledgement of good aspects on a specific farm.
Lindsay Whistance (Aarhus University) illustrated with many pictures natural dairy cow behaviour in terms of feeding, resting and defecation and how this can be hindered by the construction of troughs, feeding gutters and cubicles in the barn.
The presentation from the veterinarian Peter Plate highlighted the environmental implications of animal health control as well as illustrating the potential benefits of new developments, such as the dairy cow fertility index and new diagnostic tools for BVD.
The account from the organic dairy farmer Will Best highlighted the importance of a very good animal-human relationship where the cows develop trust of the person looking after them. The discussion focused on the value of health planning as a ‘living' document , ‘owned' by the farmer, the need to include statement of status quo of herd health as well as proposals for steps to be taken for improving the situation. It should be developed by the farmer together with external support. Farmers could also get together in groups and use ‘benchmarking techniques' to help each other in achieving improvements of animal health.
Also, a number of questions were raised in relation to fertility, for example a potential link between lameness and fertility, the role of minerals and of farm specific mineral applications to address fertility problems. The open question is how the good work from the ANIPLAN project can be of further use to the wider community of organic livestock producers. Pilot groups using the Danish "Stable School" approach are currently being run on organic farms in Devon.