let's talk farm animals

Some good news on animal welfare

Jean L Clavelle

Lately my professional world seems to be focusing on the negative – on everything that’s not happening, how agriculture seems to be under constant attack, what we are not doing that we should. Today, I’ve decided to focus on the positive. I wanted to share some of the great work that our local and North American livestock ag community is doing for animal welfare.

To start, the 4th Annual International Beef Welfare Symposium is set to be held July 16 to 18 at Iowa State University (www.cpm.iastate.edu/beefwelfare) This conference was designed to offer producers, processors, retailers, government officials, NGOs, animal scientists, veterinarians and students the opportunity to discuss, debate and learn about the current and emerging welfare issues that face the beef cattle industry. Renowned beef cattle experts, bovine practitioners, philosophers and animal scientists will offer their insight and perspective and discuss the latest research findings during the invited presentations and poster session. Something that will benefit everyone involved in livestock agriculture and help to spread a positive message on the importance of animal welfare.

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Posted by FACS on May 15th, 2014 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,Animal welfare,Canada,Codes of Practice,Research,Social media
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Denmark shows effect of banning growth promoting antimicrobial use in cattle

Today’s post comes to us courtesy of the Beef Cattle Research Council. To see the full article and others go to BeefResearch.ca

Jean L Clavelle

 

Denmark shows effect of banning growth promoting antimicrobial use in cattle

Antimicrobial resistance has become a highly charged issue.  Headlines appear in the news on a regular basis suggesting that antibiotics are becoming less effective in humans and farmers are to blame.

Some concerns have been raised that antimicrobial use in livestock leads to antimicrobial resistance and that some of the products used in food animals are closely related to antimicrobials that are important in human health. It’s also been questioned whether antimicrobial resistance can be transferred among bacteria, which may reduce effectiveness of drugs used in human medicine.

Of course the Canadian beef industry is also concerned about antimicrobial resistance.  Cattlemen depend on the effectiveness of animal health products, and on consumers’ confidence in how beef is raised and the safety of the beef they consume.  And just like the rest of the society, farmers need human drugs to be effective too.

We’re all in agreement on the seriousness of antimicrobial use and resistance.

Several nations around the world have surveillance programs in place to monitor trends in antimicrobial use and resistance.  In Canada, this is led by the Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance (CIPARS). In the United States, surveillance is conducted by the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS).  These programs test for antimicrobial resistance in healthy animals arriving at slaughter plants as well as retail meat samples. In addition, various groups including the Beef Cattle Research Council and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada collect more detailed antimicrobial use and resistance information in a broader range of microbes and locations (e.g. feedlots, manure, soil, water).

To date, scientific surveillance has indicated that:graph 1 antibiotic resistance PIC

  • Resistance to antimicrobials that are most important in human health is extremely uncommon in healthy North American cattle and beef.
  • Multi-drug resistance is similarly low, and is not increasing.
  • In cattle, the vast majority of antimicrobials used are not used in human health at all.

Let’s look more closely at the last point. The vast majority of antimicrobials used in cattle are ionophores.   Ionophores act on rumen microbes; they selectively inhibit methanogenic bacteria and allow beneficial rumen bacteria to make more feed energy available to the animal, thereby improving feed efficiency and weight gain.  Ionophores also prevent diseases like coccidiosis.

Ionophores have no benefit to, nor are they licensed for use in humans. Even if microbes developed resistance to ionophores, this would not make them resistant to classes of antimicrobials that are used in human medicine.

Eliminating antimicrobial growth promotants, including ionophores, in cattle production would substantially reduce the overall use of antimicrobials, but would that reduce concerns about antimicrobial resistance?

Denmark phased out the use of those products in livestock production between 1994 and 1999.  Since 2001, we can see a clear trend of increased use of prescribed veterinary antimicrobials. The decrease in antimicrobial use has happened in the “medium importance” category, antimicrobials rarely used in human medicine anymore.  Without the use of growth promoting antimicrobials, the need for antimicrobials that are important to human health increased. In addition, there has been no clear trend towards decreased antimicrobial resistance in Danish cattle or beef.

Canadian research has repeatedly shown that antimicrobials are used responsibly by Canadian beef producers, and resistance to the most important classes of antibiotics in human medicine remains extremely rare in beef cattle. Antimicrobial resistance will continue to be a research priority in Canada’s beef industry to maintain or improve current prudence.

Continued use of antimicrobials of no importance to human health in Canadian beef production will be critical to the future competitiveness of and reduced environmental impacts by Canada’s beef sector due to improved feed efficiency and reduced animal disease.  Furthermore, the consequences of a ban on ionophores in Denmark suggest that discontinuing the use of such products would not lead to lower antimicrobial resistance, and may increase the use of antimicrobials that are important in human medicine.

To learn more about antimicrobial use and resistance in Canadian cattle and beef, visit http://www.beefresearch.ca/research-topic.cfm/antimicrobial-resistance-11

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Posted by FACS on April 28th, 2014 :: Filed under Agriculture Education,antibiotics,Beef cattle,Canada,Education and public awareness,Research,Uncategorized
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Bridging the great divide

by Jean L Clavelle

There are some statistics being tossed around these days on social media - only 3% of the population is involved in food production agriculture.  Of those involved in primary production, 98% are family owned and operated.  Interesting as it seems this has set up our culture to be an “us against them” scenario in terms of food production and the general public.

It has been my experience that people in animal agriculture are passionate about raising their animals.  This isn’t a job, it’s a way of life.  Most of my colleagues feel the same way, and primary producers (those directly involved with on-farm production) that I’ve had the pleasure of working with here in western Canada exemplify this statement.  They want to produce a safe product, they want their animals to have a satisfying life and they want to have enough income to provide for their families and continue on with this lifestyle.

Sure there are some bad eggs (sorry for the bad pun) and those that don’t make the right choices.  This happens in every walk of life, every profession, every business however it is not the norm and it is certainly not the norm (or considered acceptable) in animal agriculture.

Sadly animal rights groups and some media presentations like those we saw in the recent W5 report do their best to highlight the small percentage that do not represent what conventional agriculture really is.  And instead of highlighting positive practices, sensationalized media coverage takes small snippets of unacceptable episodes and position them as being the norm.  Let’s be clear, animal rights groups do not want us to use animals in any way shape or form.  They do not believe we should eat meat or any animal by-product.  And unfortunately this message is lost for the average consumer.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on November 12th, 2013 :: Filed under Activism,Agricultural Advocates,Agriculture Education,Animal welfare,Canada,Feeding the world,Media,Uncategorized
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It’s All Antibiotic Free, Baby!

Reprinted with permission from Hurdhealth.com

 

It’s All Antibiotic Free, Baby!

Posted by
After all of the recent Panera and Chipotle hype about antibiotic free production, I decided to look at the data. This is also a follow up to my previous blog about antibiotic free (ABF) meat; I am going to present some data to back up my claim that there is very little difference between conventional and ABF – in other words, it’s all antibiotic free, baby! #ItsAllABF!

Due to farmers following appropriate withdrawal times, there are very few violations. In fact in the last three years of USDA testing no broiler chickens have been found with violative residues for the scheduled (random) sampling. For beef only 2 violations out of 1,600 samples were found and only 3 out of 2,200 from market hogs.  Note that antibiotics are not toxins, there are useful and very safe products used by us all.

The Bottom Line

The residue detection levels in the 3 classifications that I analyzed (beef cattle, market hogs, and broilers) are extremely small and well below the levels that would cause adverse effects to a human eating the meat. In addition, if an animal tests positive for residues, it does not enter the food supply.

Meat from an ABF farm would supposedly have zero levels of residues – but, if you aren’t going to get sick or be affected by the perfectly healthy, wholesome conventional meat, why should you pay more for something that potentially carries more foodborne illness?

From a veterinary perspective, I am concerned with the internal struggle that the ABF farmer must face. Most farmers get some premium for raising ABF meat, so if the animals get sick does the farmer treat and lose the financial benefits of ABF or wait a day or two? Waiting can increase mortality and spread of infectious disease significantly. What about the veterinarian, who has taken an oath to prevent animal suffering, but management will only let him treat a small percentage of the barns? Can these restaurateurs really argue their ABF meat provides a better “conscience choice,” if it comes at the cost of additional mortality and animal suffering?

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on September 6th, 2013 :: Filed under Animal care,Animal health,Animal welfare,Consumers,Economics,Food safety,Innovation and technology,Media,Regulations,Research,Social media,Speaking out,Traceability
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Reducing weaning stress, as simple as Two Steps!

Quiet Wean PicNot often do science and research result in real world applications with just a few studies.  Often, practical adaptations are made after years of study at multiple centers involving many scientists and dozens or hundreds of publications that have each built on the tiny steps of the one before it.

Often that is the case, but not always.  Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan were investigating behaviour of beef cows and stumbled across something quite extraordinary that resulted in a new understanding of how to wean calves.  After just a few projects, these researchers were able to offer a method of weaning that dramatically reduces stress for both the cow and calf, and results in healthier bigger calves for the producer.  Better still the idea has taken off across North America!

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on August 22nd, 2013 :: Filed under Animal care,animal handling,Animal health,Animal welfare,Beef cattle,Innovation and technology,Research,Uncategorized
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Do you know what Animal Welfare really means?

In my 15 years studying, researching and being employed in agriculture I’ve had many discussions with urban and agricultural friends, family, colleagues and even strangers about the meaning of animal welfare.  Often this conversation begins with animal welfare and then diverges into other different and oftentimes unrelated topics.  One such discussion began with welfare of laying hens in cages then turned into a discussion of the nutritional benefits of eggs from hens fed different diets.  I suspect welfare is never a short discussion because in many people’s minds welfare is associated with so many other issues.

So, what is Animal Welfare?

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on July 25th, 2013 :: Filed under Agricultural Advocates,Agriculture Education,Animal welfare,Canada,Chickens,Codes of Practice,Consumers,Education and public awareness,Laying hens,Misconceptions,Research,Speaking out,Uncategorized
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Drinkable Water - from Livestock Manure

An article entitled “Drinkable Water – From Livestock Manure” received a great deal of interest when it was published in the Globe & Mail on June 26.  The story features a project that is one of four semi-finalists in the Globe’s  Small Business Challenge Contest.

The article starts off: “General audiences might cringe watching a video that shows Ross Thurston, president of Calgary-based Livestock Water Recycling Inc., drinking water produced from treated hog manure.

But livestock farmers will probably say, “Genius.”

Mr. Thurston’s company builds and installs systems that treat hog and cow manure, separating solids and phosphorus, extracting and concentrating ammonium and, finally, discharging water that’s clean enough to drink.”

You can read the whole article at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/small-business/sb-growth/the-challenge/drinkable-water-from-livestock-manure/article12810772/#dashboard/follows/

Micah Shearer-Kudel, Environmental Coordinator for Farm & Food Care Ontario, is working on many water quality initiatives funded through the Water Resource Adaptation Management Initiative (WRAMI). He submitted the following letter to the editor to the Globe and Mail:

The editor:

Drinkable water from livestock manure seems like a bad sci-fi movie theme, but is really a practical example of how today’s farmers are innovative environmentalists.  For example, Ontario farmers have invested $220 million dollars in environmental improvements on their farms in the past six years through Environmental Farm Plan projects. 

Saving soil, planting trees or funding plant research doesn’t usually make the news, but they are all excellent examples of commitments made by farmers that help people, animals and the planet. 

 

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on July 22nd, 2013 :: Filed under Environment,Environmental Farm Plan,Pigs,Research,Water Quality and Conservation
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Local meat processor wins award for allergen-free meat products

By Lilian Schaer

Heidelberg - They built their business on the power of local long before it was popular and their allergen-free meat products are a life-line to many food allergy sufferers.

These efforts have won Waterloo Region’s Stemmler Meats and Cheese a Premier’s Award for Innovation and they’ve also just been named a finalist for a prestigious innovation award from the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber of Commerce. “Anytime you have an honour like this, especially from your peers and in an industry that is so diverse, it is very humbling,” says Kevin Stemmler.

Photo from left, brothers Kevin (squatting), Terry and Shawn Stemmler of Stemmler Meats and Cheese in Heidelberg, ON.

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Posted by Farm and Food Care on February 7th, 2013 :: Filed under Innovation and technology,Meat processing,Research,Specialty foods,Uncategorized
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Breaking down the options for your breakfast

by Kristen Kelderman

One of my favourite traditions growing up was our Sunday night breakfast for dinner and curling up to watch the Walt Disney special on CBC. Often we would grab a dozen eggs and whip up some delicious omelets for everyone to enjoy and my sister and I would fight over whose turn it was to crack the eggs.

Since then I have cracked my fair share of eggs, but never have I really questioned where my eggs come from or where do the chickens live and what kind of care are they given?

Growing up on a farm, I never second guessed this and assumed that much like my family; chicken farmers care for their birds just like we do with our Holstein cows.

But consumers today are much more engaged and want to know more about their food and how it’s raised. And this is a fantastic opportunity for Ontario farmers to tell their story! While many people are concerned about what type of eggs they buy- free run, free range, enriched or conventional- they often don’t understand the implications that come with the associated housing systems.

The Coalition for Sustainable Egg Supply (CSES) is evaluating the tradeoffs that exist between the different housing systems and how they impact the environment, animal health and well- being, food affordability, food safety and worker health and safety. This research follows two flocks over three years on a commercial farm at the same location with three different housing systems, an aviary, an enriched system and a conventional system.

While the preliminary data has just been released, it provides some very intriguing results regarding environment, animal health and well-being and food affordability. When compared to aviaries, conventional and enriched systems had better air quality with lower levels of ammonia and dust particulates.

Eggs coming in, by conveyor belt, from a Canadian laying hen barn.

And when considering the health and well being of the birds, there were varying results in which system had the most fractured wings, the most breast bone deviations, overall feather coverage and highest incidence of foot problems.

Overall each system had associated health pros and cons, but one did not stand out ahead of the others. The interesting information from this research is that this is the first time food affordability data has been collected on a commercial sized farm.

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Posted by FFC on November 22nd, 2012 :: Filed under animal handling,Animal health,eggs,Housing,Research,Uncategorized
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When environmentalism and science face off

By Lisa McLean, Agricultural writer

Destruction of GMO crops (also called genetically modified organisms) is a common form of protest, particularly in the EU where public acceptance of biotechnology is low. Activists dress in their best white garb and face masks to make the most of a photo opportunity while they wade into fields and haul out healthy plants by their roots.

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Posted by FFC on May 14th, 2012 :: Filed under Activism,Crops,Environment,Innovation and technology,Research
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