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  Electronic newsletter of the Welfare Quality Project FOOD-CT-2004-506508 logos
  
 

 

27 May
National workshop on Pig welfare, Germany

9-13 June
WQ at conference `Lameness in ruminants` Finland

18-20 June
WQ at Isofar Conference, Italy

30 June-4 July
WQ at 23rd World’s Poultry Congress, Australia

3-6 July
WQ at The Royal Show, Warwckshire,UK

7-11 July
WQ at ADSA-ASAS Conference, USA

5-9 August
ISAE, 42nd International Congress, Ireland

14-15 August
2nd International Seminar on Animal Welfare,Uruguay



For more details: Calendar

 
Invitation Stakeholder Conference Berlin
 

                                                                                         Harry Blokhuis, project coordinator
The preparations are in full swing for our second stakeholder conference "Assuring animal welfare: from public concerns to implementation", which will take place 3 and 4 May 2007 in Berlin, Germany.
Since our first meeting in November 2005, a lot of additional research has been undertaken and progress has been made, and I believe that we have put together an interesting programme for stakeholders such as producer associations, animal breeding organisations, major retailers, consumer organisations, European and national politicians, veterinarians, interest groups, and policy-makers. I am looking forward to interact with interested stakeholders and to listen to your responses to our work in the Welfare Quality® project.
The programme offers three sessions with up-to-date information:

1 Turning societal concerns into a welfare initiative;
2 Turning welfare principles into practice: the approach followed in Welfare Quality®;
3 Animal welfare schemes as key elements for society.
In addition, there are three workshops on challenging topics: “Improving welfare through product information”, “How to reconcile producers’ and society’s interests on welfare grounds”, and “Globalisation of animal welfare”.
Many participants have registered already, originating from 18 different countries.
On behalf of the Steering Committee and project partners, I would like to invite you to join our conference on 3 and 4 May. I look forward to meeting you all in Berlin.

Prof. Dr Harry Blokhuis, project coordinator

 
Welfare Quality® on the move
 
 
                                                                                                 Harry Blokhuis, coordinator
It is important to accommodate societal concerns about both the welfare quality of animal food products and related market demands. Our project aims to do this by delivering reliable, science-based, on-farm welfare assessment systems for poultry, pigs and cattle. As well as providing useful feedback for farmers to improve the welfare quality of their farm, these systems include procedures for the standardized conversion of welfare measures into easily understandable product information. In the last six months, we have been testing our ‘full’ assessment systems for poultry, cattle and pigs on over 600 European farms. On the basis of the thus acquired data we will further develop the systems and make them more feasible. Several practical welfare improvement strategies have also been developed. (see this newsletter).
Increasingly, retailers and producers recognize that efforts to meet con- sumer requirements for good animal welfare actually represent a business opportunity that could be profitably incorporated in the production strategies of any agri-food company or chain. Nevertheless, the ultimate use and im- plementation of the assessment and information systems as well as the improvement strategies depend on many different actors as well as on political and market trends. A major effort by market actors (producer, breeding, retail and food service industries, NGOs, consumers, legislators, etc.) will probably be required to realize the uptake of the Welfare Quality® systems and strategies in product chains and markets. I trust that you as interested and committed stakeholders will contribute to this effort. Last but certainly not least, there is an urgent need for an independent and respected body to manage and maintain the welfare assessment and product informa- tion systems that Welfare Quality® will deliver. I consider a European Centre for Animal Welfare, as suggested by the European Commission in their ‘Action Plan on Animal Welfare’, ideally suited for this role.
Harry Blokhuis, project coordinator, harry.blokhuis@hmh.slu.se  
 
Reducing Lameness in Dairy Cows
 
Farmers estimate that 5-10% of their dairy cows suffer from lameness; in fact, the average is closer to 25% of the herd. Lameness reduces the efficiency of a cow’s milk production, with an estimated average loss of €200 per cow, per year. In other words, this welfare problem accounts for a loss os 5-10% of a farmer’s annual income per cow. However, Welfare Quality® has developed some practical support that will help farmers shrink their financial losses while improving the quality of life for their cows.
When aiming to reduce lameness in the dairy herd, one of the first places to look is the housing system. Even in the narrow range of about one cubicle per cow, i.e. on average 0.85-1.15 cubicles per cow, the more cubicles available to a cow, the better off she will be. The size of the cow in relation to the size of the cubicle is vital as are the softness and cleanliness of the lying area.
The cow’s diet is equally important. As a ruminant, the amount of roughage she consumes is vital to the workings of the digestive system, yet at the same time she requires a lot of energy to produce the amount of milk required of her. A balance must be struck. According to research on herds that were fed on average between 0 and 0.44 kg concentrates per kg milk, the risk of
 
Monitoring Lameness © Dippel

lameness increases with increasing amounts of concentrates fed. However, simply reducing the amount of concentrates compromises the energy status in high-productive cows so the challenge is in balancing roughage and energy.
The research also focused on the best type of flooring, which isn’t as straightforward as farmers might wish: cement floors, especially when slatted, new and abrasive, can damage hoofs and weaken soles, causing lesions and eventually infections and abscesses. Also, these floors become slippery due to wear, yet alternative rubber floors are difficult to clean with standard manure scrapers and, especially when solid, can be slippery despite the soft surface. Finding a combination of favourable features of the two types of floor that works best may be a process of trial and error.
Welfare Quality® is developing a DVD and web-based programme to assist dairy farmers with a monitoring and control strategy on lameness. It will be made available in English for free, and we expect to advertise this service in autumn 2008 on
our website. More information: Popular fact sheet in 5 languages, Dr Bonne Beerda,
bonne.beerda@wur.nl, Dr Xavier Manteca, xavier.manteca@uab.es 

 
Preventing Lameness in Broiler Chickens
 
 
Between 10% and 30% of the birds in European broiler flocks may suffer from painful leg disorders caused by bone and joint infections as well as skeletal abnormalities, both of which are a result of a fast growth rate during the first few weeks of life. Our research has shown that lameness in broilers can be reduced by slowing down the speed at which they grow during their first few weeks, and speeding it up once their bones have developed. By using a new combination of diets and a sequential feeding method, the researchers discovered that they could slow down growth during a chick’s early stages without any reduction in final carcass weight. The researchers recommend a 48-hour feeding cycle with two diets instead of the traditional continuous distribution of a single diet. For the first seven days of life, broiler chicks should be fed a standard starter diet. Then, from day 8 to day 28 the birds should be fed a low energy-high protein diet (E-P+) on the first day and a high energy-low protein diet (E+P-) on the second day.
 
During this period the two diets should rotate every 48 hours. That makes for a total of 10 cycles of E-P+, E+P-.  The birds should then be given a standard finishing diet from day 29 onwards.
In short, this novel regime not only reduced instances of lameness but also brought the broilers up to standard slaughter weight without the need any additional feeding days. The researchers are still analyzing the exact price differences between the broiler standard diet and the sequential diet, but initial results suggest that the sequential diet was never more expensive than the standard diet. This sequential feeding method could improve the birds’ welfare by reducing lameness at no extra cost while safeguarding the farmers’ profits at the same time. More information: popular fact sheet in 5 languages, Dr Christine Leterrier,
leterrie@tours.inra.fr, Dr Xavier Manteca, xavier.manteca@uab.es 
 
Preventing Social Stress among Cattle in Feed Bunks
 
In feedlots, several different factors can lead to aggression as the cattle face increased competition in the feed bunk. These include: badly designed feeders, excessive density in the pens, or inappropriate length of the feed bunk. This situation can become particularly disturbing when calves arrive in the feedlot or when animals establish the social rank in the group. Social pressure and aggressive interactions at the feeder may induce stress that in turn may alter normal feeding patterns, increase metabolic activity and reduce performance.
Our research revealed that Friesian calves that had to face strong competition for food during their first 4 weeks in a feedlot took 10 days longer than normal to reach their required slaughter weight. The economics are clear: more days at the feeding facilities means higher feed costs, higher management costs, and lower overall profit per head. Additionally, calves competing intensely for feed had twice as many instances of abcessed livers, which later
 
Beef cattle © UAB

had to be removed during slaughter. In total, between the need to feed for more days and the loss in income from discarded livers, a farmer's income would be reduced by 3-5%. Recently, our researchers looked at how competition for feed effects calves during both the adjustment period to a feedlot and during the actual fattening period. Increasing social competition for feed from two or four to eight per feeding place, not only reduced dry matter intake, but also decreased daily weight gain.
It appeared that four calves per feeding place might be adequate in a feedlot from an animal welfare perspective. More than four calves per feeding place could potentially reduce animal welfare, production efficiency, and profit per head, so further crowding should probably be avoided. More information: Popular Fact sheet in 5 languages, Dr Alfred Ferret, alfred.ferret@uab.es , Dr Xavier Manteca, xavier.manteca@uab.es

 
Assessment Systems Tested on Farms
 
 

Cattle assessment © Butterworth
Welfare Quality full assessment systems have been developed for 7 animal species/types: dairy cattle, beef cattle, veal calves, sows, fattening pigs, laying hens and broilers. The full assessment systems represent the most comprehensive version of the assessment system in terms of the number of animal-based measures included and the total time necessary to complete its application on-farm.
Prior to the start of on-farm testing, training sessions were held in 2007 with groups of scientists working on the same animal species and type. Training was successfully achieved with the use of both audiovisual materials in a laboratory setting as well as in practical sessions on farms or at slaughterhouses. The aim was to ensure that assessors and observers would obtain a similar level of training and expertise. After completion of the training, the application of full assessment systems on-farm commenced in Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain and the United Kingdom. The planned numbers of farms are listed below, for each animal species and type, as well as the number of farms where observations have been completed until now.

Animals Species/type Countries involved Number of farms where full assessment systems are applied
Planned Completed
Dairy Cattle Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Italy 90 90
Beef Cattle Austria, UK, Italy 85 85
Veal calves France, Italy, Netherlands 224 84
Sows Netherlands, UK 90 50
Fattening pigs Spain, France 90 44
Laying hens Netherlands, Sweden 73 73
Broilers UK, France, Netherlands 70 70

Initially, 60 veal farms and 60 broiler farms were planned in Welfare Quality®. Sponsoring for two additional projects, by the French and Dutch veal industries as well as the Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, has made it possible to increase the numbers of farmers for these species and also to carry out observations in the Netherlands.
At present, observations are completed in dairy cows, beef cattle, laying hens and broilers. Observations in sows are expected to be completed in June 2008, observations in fattening pigs and veal calves in October and December 2008, respectively. The data collected on-farm will be statistically analyzed over the next 6 months. The analysis will be primarily focused on:
1 Identifying relationships between different animal-based measures as a step towards simplifying the full monitoring system.
2 Examining relationships between a simplified version of the monitoring system and the full system, which acts as a gold standard.
3 Relationships between animal-based and resource-based/environment-based measures will be examined. This will allow for the identification of (resource- and environment-based) risk factors for animal welfare. More information: Kees van Reenen,
kees.vanreenen@wur.nl and Linda Keeling, linda.keeling@hmh.slu.se

 
Automated Measurement of Foot Pad Lesions
 
The scoring of foot pad lesions in broiler chickens is one of the parameters of the broiler welfare assessment system that is currently being developed in Welfare Quality®. Moreover, it is likely that foot pad lesions will be included as a welfare parameter in the European Council Directive for the protection of broilers in the near future. This means that an animal based parameter will be referred to in legislation, whereas until now housing related parameters are almost exclusively used. Scoring animal based parameters routinely is not easy. Thus far, foot pad lesions are measured at the slaughter plant by trained veterinarians. To automate this, video imaging might be useful. This technique is currently used to monitor aspects of carcass classification at the slaughter plant, like bruises and breast blisters.
The Animal Sciences Group of Wageningen UR, Meyn Food Processing Technology BV and the Flandrex slaughter plant started a project with the objective to develop a prototype of an automated system to measure foot pad lesions in broilers at the slaughter plant. The existing video imaging system was quickly found to be unsuitable for measuring foot pad lesions. Therefore, a new camera system was developed and the best position identified: after removal of the feet just
 
Foot
pad - severe lesions © ASG-WUR

before the feet are automatically de-shackled. A prototype was installed in-line and images were made from 51 flocks. From each flock, 100 feet were selected and scored by a trained researcher according to the Swedish scoring method (score 0: intact foot pads; score 1: moderate lesions; score 2: severe lesions).
From these 51 flocks the prototype system photographed 95.8% of the foot pads. Missing images were caused by empty shackles, a wrong position in the shackle or feathers on the foot pads. The percentage of agreement with our scoring was 85.6% for score 0, 16.7% for score 1 and 77.8% for score 2.
It can be concluded that the prototype was successful with respect to the percentage of foot pads that can be photographed and scored. However, the software needs further improvement as it fails in scoring foot pads with moderate lesions. The camera system and upgraded software will be used in a new implementation task: foot pad lesions will be automatically scored in 120 flocks from 40 broiler farms (per country) in the Netherlands, Italy and the United Kingdom. More information: Ingrid de Jong and Marien Gerritzen,
ingrid.dejong@wur.nl
 
Improving Welfare: Possible Directions
 
 
Mara Miele
There are several mechanisms for implementing welfare improvements on farms. Dedicated legislation has been the main mechanism in Europe for a long time. But in recent years some market-led initiatives have emerged, especially in countries like the UK and the Netherlands, where specific assurance schemes have addressed the quality of life of animals. The European Commission seems to favour the latter mechanism and its Action Plan on Animal Welfare 20062010 has presented a plan for introducing an EU-wide animal welfare labelling scheme based on a harmonized standard.
At present, however, most of these market-led initiatives are not being communicated to consumers through product labels but are part of more general policies of Social Corporate Responsibility and brand reputation. Even when existing labels do address animal welfare, the claims are usually bundled with other quality or ethical aspects of food products. These initiatives of voluntary labelling have created a niche market for animal-friendly products, while for the majority of animals in Europe there has been no improvement in welfare beyond legal standards. This led us to ask why market mechanisms have created this small niche market and are not attracting the majority of EU consumers who, as clearly indicated by the recent Eurobarometer 2005 and 2006 surveys, are concerned about the welfare of farm animals.
 

Is there a lack of market transparency and clear product information of the welfare status? The large majority of respondents in Welfare Quality® focus groups and surveys indicated interest in more information on animal welfare practices but not necessarily in the form of product labels. Rather, in order to be able to act in different contexts, citizens’ answers pointed to the need to increase the general knowledge on modern animal farming systems and their consequences in term of quality of life of animals. While very positive to more market transparency achieved through a scientifically validated assessment and monitoring system, a large proportion of respondents also indicated that they would expect public institutions to ensure the acceptability and improvement of animal farming in Europe and resented the idea of products of dubious ethical status.
The findings of research on consumers’ views, retailer strategies and farmer initiatives led us to think whether additional mechanisms to voluntary labelling need to be considered. We discuss the complexity of EU citizens’ concerns, the heterogeneity of supply chains and the attitudes of market actors, reflecting on potential strategies for addressing these concerns in the forthcoming report on strategies (May 2008). More informa- tion: Mara Miele,
mieleM@cardiff.ac.uk and Unni Kjærnes, unni.kjarnes@sifo.no 
 
Helping Researchers to Be Promoted
 

In 2007, we ran a survey among our partners to know whether participants had been promoted since the beginning of the project and if so whether their role in Welfare Quality® had helped.
Thirty out of the 215 respondents have effectively been promoted and 24 of them (80%) reported that Welfare Quality® helped this promotion. The respondents comprised 132 women and 83 men, while 16 women and 14 men have been promoted. Hence women seem to have fewer chances than men to be promoted. Nevertheless, more women benefited from Welfare Quality® since only two of them reported that their promotion did not depend on Welfare Quality® versus four men. Therefore an EU project is likely to help women careers in research. More information: Isabelle Veissier, veissier@clermont.inra.fr

 
Welfare Quality® at Fairs and Exhibitions
 
 

Welfare Quality® is keen to disseminate the research results in a concrete way to a large audience of potential users, such as producers, advisors, consumers, retailers, politicians and certification bodies. Therefore, we will promote the research results, on animal welfare assessment systems and practical strategies to improve welfare, at many agricultural and food exhibitions in Europe. We will be pleased to meet you in our workshops or stands in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
On 16 April, Welfare Quality® organised a successful workshop during the International livestock and technology exhibition Expoaviga 2008 in Barcelona, Spain. In the forthcoming period you can meet us at the following exhibitions:
»  The Royal Show, Warwickshire, United Kingdom - July 2008
»  Norwegian Food Festival, Ålesund, Norway - September 2008
»  Agraria 2008, Wels, Austria - September 2008
»  SANA International Exhibition of Natural Products, Bologna, Italy - September 2008
»  Space, Rennes, France - September 2008
»  Sweden Livsmedelsdagarna September 2008, Elmia - October 2008
»  Sommet de l’Élevage, Clermont-Ferrand, France - October 2008
»  Eurotier, Hannover, Germany - November 2008
For more information on the exact dates: see the calendar on our website.
Jacqueline Vredenbregt, jj.vredenbregt@kordaat.com

 
Colophon
Welfare Quality Update is the electronic newsletter of the Welfare Quality® project.
This project is a European research project focussing on the integration of animal welfare in the food quality chain: from public concern to improved welfare and transparent quality. The project aims to accommodate societal concerns and market demands, to develop reliable on-farm monitoring systems, product information systems, and practical species-specific strategies to improve animal welfare. Forty-four institutes and universities, representing thirteen European countries and four Latin American countries, participate in this integrated research project.
Welfare Quality has been co-financed by the European Commission, within the 6th Framework Programme,
contract No. FOOD-CT-2004-506508.

Project Coordinator Prof. Dr Ir Harry J. Blokhuis, The Netherlands, harry.blokhuis@hmh.slu.se
Project OfficeAnimal Sciences Group of Wageningen UR, Post box 65, 8200 AB Lelystad, The Netherlands, phone: +31 320 293503, fax: +31 320 238050, e-mail info@welfarequality.net
Websitewww.welfarequality.net

The text of Welfare Quality Update represents the authors' views and does not necessarily represent a position of the European Commission who will not be liable for the use made of such information.
Subscribe for the newsletter: www.welfarequality.net , to unsubscribe: inform the project office: info@welfarequality.net