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  • Open access
  • 69 Reads
Is an animal welfare label enough? Role of farm animal welfare voluntary labelling schemes in the development of sustainable livestock production

Intensive livestock production devoid of elementary foundations for the welfare of farm animals is nowadays identified as one of the main factors contributing to the growing environmental and social threats. Public opinion associates the welfare of farm animals with values relating to health, food quality, ethical approach to animals and protection of the environment and climate. Accordingly, the social conceptualization of farm animal welfare plays an important role in guiding EU policy and developing animal welfare law. It also becomes a prerequisite for solving social and environmental problems resulting from intensive animal production.

Farm animal welfare is an intangible and credence attribute of food and as such requires a means of informing consumers about it. The most preferred form of communication about the welfare level of farm animals among consumers are farm animal welfare labels. Both consumer preferences and their expectations of how farm animal welfare is communicated are reflected in the development of public and private food labelling systems in the European Union.

Therefore, the main aim of the study was to analyse the selected farm animal welfare voluntary labelling schemes in terms of their potential for the development of sustainable animal production in the EU. The result of the study shows the differences and similarities in this respect between public and private systems, in relation to four criteria - values associated by consumers with the welfare of farm animals - health, food quality, ethics and environmental protection.

We provide an overview of these systems and their role in increasing farm animal welfare standards. We conclude that it is particularly important to verify if the shift from production-related concern to social and consumer-related concern can constitute a sufficient and effective form for a systemic change transforming current animal production into production based on higher livestock welfare standards.

  • Open access
  • 60 Reads
Metabolic adaptations to dynamic energy requirements during lactation and pregnancy in dairy cows with varying proportions of Holstein and Simmental breed

Depending on the breed or crossbred line, cows have to cope with a more or less severe negative energy balance during the period of high milk yields in early lactation, which can be detected by beta-hydroxybutyrate (BHBA) and non-esterified fatty acids (NEFA) in blood. Preventing cows from undergoing a severe negative energy balance by breeding and/or feeding measures, is likely to be supported by the public and may help to improve the sustainability of milk production. The aim was to compare BHBA and NEFA concentrations in the blood of Holstein and Simmental cows and their crosses during the prepartum period until the end of lactation. In total 164 cows formed 5 genetic groups according to their theoretic proportion of Holstein and Simmental genes as follows: Holstein (100% Holstein; n=9), R1-Hol (51-99% Holstein; n=30), F1 crossbreds (50% Holstein, 50% Simmental; n=17), R1-Sim (1-49% Holstein; n=81) and Simmental (100% Simmental; n=27). NEFA and BHBA were evaluated once a week between April 2018 and August 2019. A mixed model analysis with fixed effects breed, week (relative to calving), the interaction of breed and week, parity, calving year, calving season, milking season, and the repeated measure effect cow was used. Holstein cows had higher NEFA (0.196 ± 0.013 mmol/l), and Simmental cows the lowest NEFA concentrations (0.147 ± 0.008 mmol/l, P=0.03). R1-Sim, F1 and R1-Hol cows had intermediate values (0.166 ± 0.005, 0.165 ± 0.010, 0.162 ± 0.008 mmol/l; respectively). The highest NEFA value was found in the first week after calving (0.49 ± 0.013 mmol/l). BHBA did not differ among genetic groups (P=0.1007). There was, however, an interaction between genetic group and week (P=0.03). While Simmental, R1-Sim and F1 cows had the highest BHBA value at the second week after calving (0.92 ± 0.07 and 1.05 ± 0.04, and 1.10 ± 0.10 mmol/l, respectively), R1-Hol and Holstein cows showed the BHBA peak at the fourth week after calving (1.16 ± 0.07 and 1.36 ± 0.12 mmol/l, respectively). Unexpectedly, Holstein cows had a high BHBA peak again at week 34 after calving (1.68 ± 0.21 mmol/l). The genetic composition of the cows affects NEFA and BHBA. Simmental and R1-Sim cows mobilize fewer body reserves after calving. Therefore, dairy cows with higher degrees of Simmental origin might be more sustainable in comparison with Holstein genetics in the present study.

  • Open access
  • 101 Reads
Chinese Egg Producers’ Attitudes and intentions towards Improving Animal Welfare

Sustainability and animal welfare in animal agriculture have been increasingly deliberated in the Chinese livestock industry. Nevertheless, most Chinese egg farms adopt conventional battery cages and the discussion about transitioning from conventional battery cages to cage-free systems (CFS) only started recently within the country. Little is known about Chinese egg producers’ views on and intentions for this transition, which hinders the transition and improvement of welfare for billions of laying hens.

This research project aims to explore Chinese egg producers’ views on CFS and their willingness to change to CFS. Based on the Theory of Planned Behaviour, this study investigated egg producers’ assessment of the outcomes of using CFS, their perceived social pressure of changing from important stakeholders and the challenges they encountered to change to CFS on their farms. Semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with eight production managers from medium to large intensive laying hen farms using conventional battery cages.

Results suggested that Chinese conventional cage egg producers defined animal welfare as biological functioning and they had negative attitudes towards CFS as they risk hen health as well as reduce productivity, profitability, and food safety. Moreover, except for some international food business companies, interviewed producers did not report any pressure from the government, consumers, agricultural advisors, and animal welfare organisations. This study also highlights some barriers that impede conversion to CFS: perceived consumers’ unwillingness to pay, absence of trustworthy food certification and labelling systems, a lack of land space, restrictions of environmental protection policies and difficulty of managing CFS.

These findings indicate that ensuring price premiums through marketing cage-free eggs is a strategy that is most likely to facilitate the transition to CFS in the Chinese egg production industry. The results also inform the policymakers and animal welfare organisations that trustworthy food certification and labelling schemes are integral to the egg industry-based transition from conventional battery cages to cage-free systems in China.

  • Open access
  • 71 Reads
Effect of the carbon:nitrogen relationship on the chemical and microbial composition of composts and wormcomposts made with pig manure
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Wormcomposting is a useful alternative to recover the organic carbon and nitrogen and to reduce the pathogenic bacteria in animal manure; but, unlike the composting process, there are no recommendations available about the best initial carbon:nitrogen relationship (CRN) to maximize the nutritional value or to minimize the microbial load of the final wormcompost product. The objective of the study was to evaluate the changes over time on the content of organic carbon (OC), total nitrogen (TN), total aerobic bacteria (TAB), coliforms (Coli) and fungí and yeast (FandY) in composts and wormcomposts prepared with pig manure using different initial CNR. Pig manure, corn stover and water were mixed in different amounts to produce 50 kg heaps that were subjected to a thermophilic process during 28 days under greenhouse conditions. After that, some heaps were inoculated with red worms to produce the wormcomposts. The initial analyzed CNR for composts were: 22, 26, 34 and 46, and for wormcomposts were: 15, 31, 46 and 70. Samples for chemical analysis were taken on days 1, 28 and 140 and samples for microbiological analysis were taken on days 1, 7, 28, 56, 84 and 140 of the study. The data was analyzed using the MIXED procedure with repeated observations over time. In composts, the OC and CNR diminished over time but increased within each time as the initial CNR increased (P < 0.01). The TN rose over time but within each time was lowest at the highest CNR (P < 0.01). The TAB, Coli and FandY counts showed cubic responses over time and showed interactions with the initial CNR (P < 0.01). The TAB, Coli and FandY counts were similar among treatments at 140 days. In wormcomposts, the OC diminished over time but within each time was highest at the highest initial CNR (P < 0.05). The TN rose over time but within each time was lowest at the highest CNR (P < 0.05). At 28 and 140 the CNR dropped compared to the initial CNR and was similar among treatments. The BT, Coli and FandY counts showed cubic patterns over time and showed interactions with the initial CNR (P < 0.05). The TAB, Coli and FandY counts were similar among treatments at 140 days. In summary, the OC and CNR diminished and the TN increased over time in composts and wormcomposts with different initial CNR. Composts and wormcomposts were effective in reducing the microbial load over time regardless of the initial CNR, but the final OC content was greater in the wormcompost. Wormcomposts made from composts with a wide range of initial CNR were highly effective in converting pig manure in a high quality organic fertilizer with a lower load of potential pathogenic bacteria.

  • Open access
  • 164 Reads
Perception of animal welfare in laying hens and willingness-to-pay of eggs in consumer in Santiago, Chile.

The welfare of laying hens has been the subject of interest in consumers, industry and government in Chile. The current main egg production system in Chile is the intensive cage system, allowing high egg production for an increasing human population. Joint efforts have been carried out between the industry, universities and government to establish minimum welfare conditions, including the development of the Good Welfare Practices for Laying Hen Production. However, cage-free, free-range and "happy hens" eggs are commercially available and consumption is increasing rapidly in Chile. Several studies has shown that public perception is that animals in free-range or cage-free egg production systems have better animal welfare than those in more intensive systems. Some studies have shown that cage-free or free-range hens may be subjected to poorer welfare and health; others the reverse. Also, in an increasing global human population, this kind of systems seems unsustainable. We conducted a study to measure the current perception of consumers in Santiago, Chile, on the welfare of hens for egg production and the willingness-to-pay for products originating from cage-free or free range systems. Most consumers described that the welfare of hens as a "very important" issue (89,9%) and the welfare should be measured and protected (99,6%). Welfare concepts are described as "conditions that human have to provide to animals to give a good quality of life" (41%), "involves more than animal protection laws" (33%) and "the duty to respect the life of all animals" (29%). Also, 82% of consumer believed that "educating children about welfare can have a very good influence on how to treat other animals". Most consumers were interested in obtaining more information about the welfare of production animals (89,9%). Egg consumption is high with 48,2% of consumer eating more than 3 eggs each week. Interestingly, 38% of the consumer bought cage-free or free-range eggs, with 41% buying traditional (intensive farming) eggs (21% did not know the origin). Willingness-to-pay for welfare-friendly eggs is high, with 17% of consumers willing to pay more than 20% over the normal value, 12% of consumers willing to pay between 11% to 20% over normal value, 30% of consumers willing to pay between 6% to 10% over the normal value, 30% of consumers willing to pay up to 5% over current value, and only 11% of consumers would not pay more for welfare-friendly produced eggs. Results showed that consumers in the capital of city of Chile have a relative good knowledge of welfare concepts and are concerned about the welfare of laying hens. The consumers are willing to pay more for welfare-friendly produced eggs. This is the first report on these issues and may reflect the current higher interest in Chilean consumers. Welfare issues should be considered in the future to achieved a good sustainable production of eggs in Chile.

  • Open access
  • 48 Reads
Post-mortem energy metabolites, glycolytic potential and meat quality attributes from of Dorper and Merino lambs

This study was conducted to evaluate the susceptibility of the Dorper and Merino breeds to pre-slaughter conditions stress at a commercial abattoir and how it affects the quality of the meat produced. The objective of this study was to investigate differences in post-mortem energy metabolites, glycolytic potential and meat quality attributes from Muscularis longimissius thoracis et lumborum (LTL) between Dorper and Merino lambs slaughtered at a commercial abattoir. Meat samples (~50 grams of LTL) harvested from 100 female eight-month old of the Dorper (n=50) and Merino (n=50) lambs were used in this study. For measuring post-mortem energy metabolites (glycogen, lactate, glucose-6-phosphate and glucose content) sampling was done on each carcass ~ 30 minutes post-slaughter and the samples were immediately frozen (-196 °C) in liquid nitrogen to prevent further glycolysis. The pH and temperature were measured 45 minutes, 6 and 24 hours post-slaughter, and carcass measurements were taken. Colour coordinates (lightness (L*), redness (a*), yellowness (b*)) were measured at 24 hours after slaughter and hue angle (H*) and chroma (C*) were calculated. Furthermore, thawing loss (TL), cooking loss (CL) and Warner Braztler Shear Force (WBSF) were measured after 7 days post-slaughter storage (-20 ºC). The Dorper had lower glycogen levels thus produced meat with a high ultimate pH and tougher meat compared to the Merino breed. The relationships observed between post-mortem muscle metabolites, glycolytic potential and meat quality attributes indicate that meat quality is affected by glycogen levels at slaughter. The results indicate that the Dorper breed was more susceptible to pre-slaughter stress and thus produced meat with reduced quality compared to the Merino breed.

  • Open access
  • 90 Reads
Gastrointestinal microflora homeostasis, immunity and growth performance of rabbits supplemented with innovative non-encapsulated or encapsulated synbiotic

Synbiotics are a mixture of probiotics (live microbes) and prebiotics (nutrients for intestinal microbiota: soluble fibers, polyphenols and polyunsaturated fatty acids) that are now being considered important tools to help in maintaining animals in good health. Achieving adequate efficiency of the synbiotic products depends on maintaining probiotic survival and prebiotic stability against processing, storage and gastrointestinal conditions. The development of encapsulation technique facilitates the protection of live microorganism as well as the controlled and sustained release of bioactive molecules. In this study, a synbiotic consists of Saccharomyces cerevisiae yeast (SCY) and Moringa oleifera leaf extract (MOLE) encapsulated or not with alginate was fabricated to be used as a dietary supplement for growing rabbits. Sixty-four, 40 days old, growing rabbits were equally allocated into four groups and receiving per each kg diet: non-capsulated 11×1012 SCY + 0.15g MOLE (NCS), encapsulated 5.5×1012 SCY + 0.075g MOLE (LCS) encapsulated 11×1012 SCY + 0.15g MOLE (HCS), or not (control). The treatments continued for six conductive weeks, from day 40 of age to day 82 of age. During the experimental period, growth performance variables including body weight (BW), feed consumption, BW gain, and feed conversion ratio were weekly recorded. At the end of the treatment, day 82 of age, blood samples and intestinal and cecal samples were individually collected from six randomly selected rabbits. Also, in vitro gastrointestinal system simulation was used to test the survival of the yeast cells through the gastrointestinal tract. Results revealed that the encapsulation process significantly improved yeast survival against gastric and intestinal digestion. Compared to the control, NCS and LCS treatments, the HCS treatment increased numbers of intestinal and cecal yeast cells (P<0.05) and lactobacillus bacteria (P=0.062) and decreased number of salmonella (P<0.05) and coliform (P=0.08) bacteria. Rabbits treated with HCS had the highest (P<0.05) phagocytic activity, lysosomal activity, and serum concentrations of IgE, and lowest malondialdehyde compared to the control, NCS and LCS treatments. The HCS treatment improved significantly body weight gain, feed conversion compared to control treatment, while the NCS and LCS treatments showed intermediate values. In conclusion, the encapsulation process improved the efficiency of innovative synbiotic. The high dose of encapsulated synbiotic adjusted gut microflora constitutes and posted immunity and growth performance of rabbits during fattening period.

  • Open access
  • 148 Reads
The Intersection of Animals and Global Sustainability – A Critical Studies Terrain for Better Policies?

At the UN-level, it has only recently been acknowledged that the welfare of animals is not, but should be, part of the Sustainable Development Agenda. Since then, and more vehemently so since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, initiatives and publications have come out, drawing out the interconnections between animal welfare and protection on the one hand, and on the other hand, ecosystem destruction, species extinction, the climate crisis, industrial animal agriculture and the emergence of zoonoses. Arguments have also been made that sustainability and animal protection is something of an oxymoron with in particular farm animals being treated as vehicles to achieve sustainability rather than being agents who under a justice perspective should be beneficiaries of the sustainability transition. To address the many un-sustainabilities, many urge to move away from anthropocentric notions of sustainability. Others have begun to approach the notion of sustainability from a critical theory perspective. This parallels developments in relevant related fields. Critical animal studies is already well established. Moreover, we are observing the birth of a new field, the veterinary humanities, with indications of a critical veterinary humanities emerging. In this paper, it is discussed what a critical theory perspective would bring to the intersection of global sustainability and animals. In conclusion, an interspecies sustainability theory is suggested that needs to be conceptualised as a critical theory to address the multiple sustainability crises and to protect animals.

  • Open access
  • 145 Reads
Assessing sustainability in cattle silvopastoral systems in the Mexican using the SAFA framework


Cattle production is one the main causes of land use change in the tropics. The demand for meat and milk are increasing globally and as a result, it is urgent to work on sustainable livestock production systems that satisfy food security and protect the environment. Silvopastoral systems (Ssp) are an alternative for more sustainable forms of production. Hence, their sustainability performance compared to conventional systems need to be evaluated. The SAFA framework is a tool to assess sustainability performance in agricultural systems that has not been used in livestock production. The objective of this study was to use this framework to compare silvopastoral, native (NSsp) and intensive (SSPi) and monoculture (Mc) cattle farms in the state of Yucatan, Mexico. Animal welfare was assessed using the Welfare Quality tool. Species Diversity and Richness was also obtained, as well as soil variables. Questionnaires were created using the SAFA Guidelines version 3.0 and applied in 9 farms of the local communities in 3 municipalities. Responses were fed to the application SAFA tool version 2.1.50 and sustainability polygons were produced. Native farms had positive ratings for Participation, Land, Biodiversity and Cultural Diversity, and SSPi for Holistic Management. Native farms had limited ratings for Decent Livelihood, due to poor training and underpay. NSsp farms and one Sspi farm had the highest percentages of themes positively valuated (NSsp1- 67%, Sspi- 62%, NSsp2- 57%) compared to monocultures and with one SSpi farm ranged as the lowest in positive valuations (Mc3- 33%, SSpi3- 33%, Mc2- 24%). Positive evaluations identified native systems as an option for sustainable production, however, it was also recognized that group participation, environmental knowledge and awareness, identification of potential business risks, technical support and training were key factors to improve sustainability in all farms. This study is a novel approach to the SAFA protocol, as it validates its efficiency in the conditions present in the Mexican tropics and compares the sustainability performance of Ssp systems, which have never been evaluated using this tool. Transdisciplinary research is needed to integrate measurements on sustainability criteria in different livestock production systems to design more efficient policies and incentives for producers.

  • Open access
  • 65 Reads
Animal Health And Sustainability (planet and humans health)

To discuss the two concepts: animal health and sustainability, we must remind that ASF (Animal Source Foods) have a big role for human health, but animals are assumed to have an important negative role on the environment. Indeed, ASF can compromise human health, both in excess and in deficiency, so a proper amount is important. Environment impact of farmed animals: land occupation, GHG emissions, energy use and water utilization, acidification and eutrophication, must be minimized reducing ASF consumption, as well as increasing productivity/efficiency. For this, besides genetics, feeding and good management, the hygienic-sanitary and comfort conditions to ensure a good health and well-being are therefore essential. Animal health, important to avoid zoonosis and food-born diseases, can also cause economic and socio-economic losses (lower production-productivity and profitability) with direct and indirect effects on planet health. Nevertheless, there are big differences between developing and developed countries: in the first a prevalence of endemic infectious diseases and parasites is observed, but a lack of tools to restrain them; in DC there is a decline of the above diseases, but an increase of stress-related diseases. Their reduction is equally important, but with different strategies: in developing countries the means of prevention and treatment are needed, while in developed ones it is necessary to use drugs correctly (to reduce residues, especially antimicrobials) and improve the living conditions of animals (welfare).

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