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  • Open access
  • 89 Reads
Livestock production: climate and sustainability impacts

Despite abundant evidence about livestock production’s large contribution to climate change and serious negative impacts on sustainability, it only recently has started to come under scrutiny. Greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, biodiversity loss, inefficient use of natural resources and application of antibiotics are some of the aspects associated with the current and increasing trends in the supply of livestock food products. With sustainability being an anthropocentric concept, there seems to be little concern about animal exploitation and limited discussion about the role of livestock in improving human quality of life. The presentation provides an overview of the climate and sustainability impacts of livestock production and argues that an increase in the adoption of plant-based options is a win-win situation for all species on this planet

  • Open access
  • 68 Reads
Chunky reproduces better? Small rodent fertility and fitness in commercial orchards

Rodents are an important part of agricultural ecosystems, including within commercial orchards. In 2018–2020, we studied small mammals in commercial orchards in Lithuania (northern Europe), snap-trapping them twice a year (in June–July and September–October, 1450 individuals, 11 species) at 18 sites across central, northern, eastern, southern and western parts of the country. Sites were located in apple and plum orchards, as well as currant, raspberry and highbush blueberry plantations, with each site also having a control habitat (meadow or forest) adjacent. We present results of our analysis of body condition, based on body weight and body length in relation to the habitat type and the intensity of agricultural activities, and reproduction parameters (litter size, pregnancy disruption) in common, bank, short-tailed and root voles as well as yellow-necked and striped field mice, accounting for over 96% of trapped rodents. The average body condition index of A. flavicollis was C = 3.39, that of A. agrarius was C = 3.38, and of M. agrestis, M. arvalis, M. glareolus and M. oeconomus C = 3.29, 3.25, 3.23, and 3.01, respectively. Body condition of rodents was significantly dependent on species (p < 0.0001), age (p < 0.005) and gender (p < 0.05) of the individual, season (p < 0.0001) and habitat (p < 0.05); influence of crop age (p = 0.07) and intensity of agricultural practices (p = 0.12) was much weaker or insignificant. We found observed litter size decreasing in autumn in all rodents; that in M. arvalis and A. flavicollis was significant, and there was a tendency to decrease in M. oeconomus. A decrease of the observed litter size in area with higher intensity of agricultural practices was registered for M. arvalis and M. oeconomus, trend in M. glareolus was not significant. In A. flavicollis litter size was similar irrespective of intensity of agricultural practices. In spring, litter size was significantly correlated with the female body mass in M. oeconomus (r = 0.67, p < 0.05, body mass explained 45% of variation of the litter size) and A. flavicollis (r = 0.53, p < 0.005, 27% of litter size variation explained). In autumn, litter size and female body mass was positively correlated in all rodent species. Female body condition index and litter size correlations were weak. Therefore, old orchards with low intensity of agricultural practices are important habitats, maintaining sustainable rodent populations and diversity of animals in the agrolandscape.

  • Open access
  • 49 Reads
Demand for animal-based food products and sustainability

The demand for animal-based food products is growing across the world, and many are consciously consuming a protein-rich diet. However, the growing consumption of animal proteins contradicts the Earth's ability to sustainably feed its population. Curbing emissions from agriculture, and especially from livestock production, is essential to fulfilling the Paris Agreement and shifting to a different diet, including EAT-Lancet's Planetary Health Diet, the flexitarian diet, and other ethically based dietary choices. Consuming modest or lower amounts of meat is viewed as one of the ways toward achieving sustainability. An increased focus on plant-based foods and other meat alternatives presents a strong potential for reducing agriculture-induced emissions and transitioning towards a more plant-based agricultural sector and underlines the need for worldwide national policies incentivizing this transition. The presentation explores whether consumers are ready to shift to a diet which is better for their health and that of the natural environment.

  • Open access
  • 53 Reads
Influences of exercise enrichment on feedlot cattle behaviour and the human-animal relationship

Finding practicable and cost-effective forms of enrichment for cattle in feedlot environments is challenging. Specifically, the enrichment must alleviate cattle from the boredom imposed by often barren and confined environments, while not negatively impact productivity. Providing enrichment could also assist in improving feedlot sustainability, addressing societal concern for cattle having a non-natural life. Exercising cattle within their home pens or in laneways, using low-stress stock handling, was tested for its effect on Bos taurus cattle behaviour, temperament and productivity. In late summer 2019, 287 mixed breed B. taurus cattle in a feedlot located approximately 250km north-east of Perth were split across three pens; two provided with different exercise treatments (pen 1 = exercised in-pen, 2 = exercised in the laneway) and a control pen. Cattle were exercised 2-3 times per week for approximately 20 minutes between days 40-80 of a 120-day feeding program. Individual body weights, crush temperament and crush exit speeds were collected on days 40 and 80, while behavioural testing (novel person test, ethograms prior to and post novel person test, and avoidance test) was conducted on days 41, 60 and 79 in home pens. While body weight was found to significantly increase for all pens combined over the study, weight gains did not significantly differ between pens (p < 0.05). Despite this, a smaller and higher range of weight gains were found for the exercised pens, while the control pen had two animals lose weight, with exact cause for weight loss (health or poor performance) unknown. This suggests that while enrichment did not negatively impact productivity, there is a possible positive influence, with more cattle having consistently higher weight gains; however, conducting study over an entire feeding program is needed. Behavioural testing found the cattle exercised in the laneway to be less responsive or recover quickly to human exposure, returning to lying posture and resting behaviour after the novel person test. Cattle exercised in-pen were found to be less reactive during avoidance tests and the novel person test, showing an improved human-animal relationship. Exercise was not found to influence temperament; however, all cattle studied had calm temperaments at the beginning of the study. This initial study shows that exercise impacted cattle behaviour and the human-animal relationship, which if implemented, could assist in feedlots becoming more socially sustainable.

  • Open access
  • 71 Reads
A 20-YEAR ANALYSIS OF THE EVOLUTION OF AUTOMATIC MILKING SYSTEMS: PROCESSES, TECHNOLOGIES AND LIVESTOCK ENVIRONMENT

Over the last 20 years, the dairy industry has implemented new technologies related to Automatic Milking Systems (AMS). AMS have the potential to maximise milk production and animals’ welfare, thanks to the voluntary milking access, but also to increase the resource efficiency and environmental sustainability of dairy farms. This study assesses the state of the art of research on AMS through a systematic review of patent trends in the last two decades. Patents of the last 20 years were extracted from the EspaceNet database. Terms appearing in title and abstract of a total of 154 patents were processed by text mining approach, ignoring low-frequency and meaningless words, and including stemming analysis to aggregate variant forms of the same word. Four clusters were identified: Components, Sensors, Process and Animal, which weights were 30%, 29%, 25% and 16%, respectively. The patent trend and the top contributing countries were evaluated. Moreover, for each cluster, a words frequency analysis was carried out in order to identify research tendencies. The results showed that the highest number of patents was yielded in the early 2000s, thus indicating the great interest to AMS in the initial period. The main contributing countries were The Netherlands and Sweden. The clusters trend pointed out that the focus on the animal and the sensing technologies was constant over time. In recent years, the priority of research shifted towards process efficiency and components. Detailed analysis of clusters allowed to appreciate an increasing interest in the animal health and body conditions over time (+249% and +391% from 2000 to 2019, respectively). Moreover, the study gave evidence of the evolution of the barn towards more efficient systems. The processes which showed increasing relevance were the ones related to facilities cleaning (+291%) and vacuum-based milking systems. The new sensing technologies focus primarily on imaging, allowing to develop new decision models (+348%). Results suggest that AMS patents are moving their attention towards more efficient and sustainable systems. This trend represents an important opportunity for a significant increase in the sustainability of the dairy sector, not only for animals but also for the farmers through the efficient use of the resources, thus enhancing the perception of sustainability by the consumer.

  • Open access
  • 31 Reads
OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVING FEED USE EFFICIENCY FOR SUSTAINABLE DAIRY PRODUCTION IN PAKISTAN

Buffalo and cattle are our main dairy animals, comprising 30% of the total livestock. Out of total milk produced in the country, buffalo contributes about 68 %, followed by cattle (27%) and rest (5%) by sheep, goat and camel collectively. They are kept both in rural and periurban dairy production systems. These dairy animals mostly strive on low-quality feedstuffs including roughages and crop-residues with poor nutritive value, resulting in poor production and reproduction performance. Recent investigations and published data show that there is a justification of a concern about whether the production and physiological stages of dairy animals are always adequately considered, with overfeeding of non-productive and under-feeding of productive animals, leading to poor feed use efficiency. There is no separate feeding system for different classes of the dairy animals. Furthermore, in the prevailing dairy production scenario there is no efficient feeding system especially devised for growing heifers (kept as replacement for the herd) to reduce their age at puberty, with a significant reduction in the cost of feeding. Similarly, introduction of milk replacer and early weaning of calves would be effective in improving dairy farm economics, without any adverse effects on growth if good quality calf starter is used. Fodder scarcity during certain times of the year (November to January and May-June) in Pakistan is another big constraint toward sustainable dairying. It is concluded that more efficient feed utilization in these dairy production systems could be achieved by developing innovative approaches and solutions (such as improving hay and silage making) to fight these scarce periods. Developments in dairy nutrition should also be embraced, such as establishment of nutrient requirements for local dairy breeds, adopting group feeding practices of dairy animals according to stage of lactation and production status, a proper feeding systems for growing heifers and effective milk replacer feeding for calves. These practical and innovative steps could effectively lead toward sustained dairy production in Pakistan.

  • Open access
  • 94 Reads
Keeping dairy cows for longer: a critical literature review on dairy cow longevity in high milk-producing countries

The ability of dairy farmers to keep their cows for longer could positively enhance the economic performance of the farms, reduce the environmental footprint of the milk industry, and overall help in justifying a sustainable use of animals for food production. However, there is little published on the current status of cow longevity and we hypothesized that a reason may be a lack of standardization and an over narrow focus of the longevity measure itself. The objectives of this critical literature review were: 1) to review metrics used to measure dairy cow longevity in order to determine those most commonly employed; 2) to describe the status of longevity in high milk-producing countries. Current metrics are limited to either the length of time the animal remains in the herd or if it is alive at a given time. To overcome such a limitation, dairy cow longevity should be first defined as an animal having an early age at first calving and a long productive life spent in profitable milk production. Combining age at first calving, length of productive life, and margin over all costs would provide a more comprehensive evaluation of longevity by covering both early life conditions and the length of time the animal remains in the herd once it starts to contribute to the farm revenues, as well as the overall animal health and quality of life. In addition, this review confirms that dairy cow longevity has decreased in most high milk-producing countries over time and its relationship with milk yield is not straight forward. Increasing cow longevity by reducing involuntary culling would cut health costs, increase cow lifetime profitability, improve animal welfare, and could contribute towards a more sustainable dairy industry while optimizing dairy farmers’ efficiency in the overall use of resources available.

  • Open access
  • 90 Reads
Is there a wild animal welfare emergency facilitated by negative linguistic framing in wildlife population control studies?

As the world human population continues grow in number and mobility, and the impacts of climate change take effect, the opportunities for problematic relationships with non-human animals multiply. There are escalating threats to health from wild vectors of zoonotic disease, and so called ‘invasive’ species have been identified as a significant direct driver of an unprecedented period of global biodiversity loss. This brings a sense of genuine urgency to control problematic wild populations; in the UK alone, it is estimated that 38 million wild mammals and birds are killed as pests. However, the impact of these animals is not always objectively appraised. Control interventions are often ineffective, may be counterproductive and can cause severe suffering. Decisions about when, where and how to control animal populations can be affected by attitudes and philosophical perspectives, influenced by how language is used.

A systematic review of wildlife population control studies was carried out to determine whether negative linguistic framing of animals was associated with poor welfare outcomes. Framework analysis of titles, abstracts and keywords was used, and assessments made of the welfare impacts of control methods. This analysis revealed language that framed target populations in terms of War, Threat, Place, Victim, Value, Sentience and Naturalness with a range of associated themes. There was a relationship between negative framing and methods with the most adverse welfare outcomes, but the effect was not consistent. It was clear that there are cultural conventions within the science that were reinforced or challenged depending on many factors including the status of the species and the context of the intervention. More work to explore and challenge cultural conventions in describing targeted animals, and robust reporting of the welfare impacts of control methods are needed to tackle this, often disregarded, animal welfare emergency.

  • Open access
  • 45 Reads
Identification and validation of operational welfare indicators appropriate for small-scale goat farming in Chile

Goat production in Chile is carried out by poor small-scale farmers in semi-arid to arid agricultural conditions. Milk and cheese are the main products obtained using artisanal, cultural and traditionally preserved methods where women and children are usually in charge of production. The products are directly consumed by the family or sold to by-passers at relatively high prices. The welfare of goats under these type of production systems is currently unknown and no appropriate validated operational welfare indicators are currently available. The incorporation of a welfare assessment system may increase milk yield and cheese production, and may provide added-value. We identified 48 welfare indicators in the peer-review literature. Only 40 of the initial welfare indicators were validated by goat production stakeholders (farmers, veterinarians, technician, welfare experts) using the European Food Safety Agency guidelines. Further on-farm validation was carried out to select only those indicators that were operational under the production systems. A final 37 operational welfare indicators were obtained. A welfare scoring system was developed from all the indicators and validated under normal production conditions. The use of these validated indicators and the welfare score is appropriate to Chilean goat production systems and may successfully increase the sustainability of goat milk production and goat farmers in Chile.

  • Open access
  • 296 Reads
Enabling behaviour change in laying hen farmers using Motivational Interviewing (MI)

Laying hens with poor feather cover eat more feed, are less productive and have higher levels of morbidity and mortality. This welfare and sustainability issue is complex and requires a proactive, multi-pronged approach. The aim of this UK study was to test a support approach for commercial implementation and uptake of evidence-based strategies aimed at reducing injurious pecking (IP) in 29 flocks of free range (FR), aviary and enriched cages (EC). This was accomplished by using Motivational Interviewing (MI) to facilitate farmer ownership over maintaining feather cover by co-developing bespoke Feather Cover Action Plans (FCAP). Recruitment included farmers with initial ranges of attitudes from not regarding IP as a priority, to engaged first adopters. The MI approach resulted in 80% of farmers making changes to their management and resource provision, with 90% of farmers of (FR) and half of those using (EC) making changes. Up to 9 actions were implemented from their FCAP (average 3 on FR farms) and 67% of all planned changes had been achieved on average 9 months later. While some changes were inexpensive and durable, such as providing rope or plastic objects, others were capital investments like verandas, planting trees, renewing and strategically placing artificial shelters, frequently replenishing lucerne, removing capped litter plus adding pecking rings in enriched cages. Reflecting on the value of their FCAP, farmers recognised that being part of the project not only raised their awareness of IP and the importance of maintaining good feather cover but also motivated them to make changes. They recognised the value of the facilitator and noted that successful outcomes gave incentive to make further progress. Half the farmers felt their FCAP had been successful in reducing IP within their flocks. This approach therefore has potential to improve both the sustainability of egg production and hen welfare.

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