Alberta Farm Animal Care Association

TOGETHER. SHAPING THE FUTURE.
Research drives change and continuous improvement in how livestock are cared for. In Canada we have a strong contingent of dedicated researchers, providing a multidisciplinary approach to livestock welfare research.
INSIGHTS provides information on livestock welfare and reports on research, initiatives and issues.

June 2018

Incidence and Characterization of Feedlot Lambs and Ewe Flock Lameness

Wiolene Nordi and Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein

Sheep production in Canada is increasing (one million head on 11,000 farms of which 2,000 farms are in Alberta), due to the growing demand for lamb meat by consumers over the last five years as a result of growing ethnic markets. Consequently, both ewe flocks and growing/finishing lamb feedlots have been increasing in number and size within Alberta to meet the demand for this growing market.

Lameness is a common cause of welfare and economic concern in most sheep producing countries. For example, prevalence of lameness in UK sheep farms has been reported to be between eight and 10 per cent with the main cause being, interdigital dermatitis, severe footrot, ovine digital dermatitis, and shelly hoof (Kaler and Green 2009*). In Alberta, we see lame sheep on farms, feedlots, auctions and pasture. At one time, there was a provincial footrot eradication program. Veterinary inspections, foot trimming and foot-soaking were standard annual procedures for the 20,000 plus sheep that headed to B.C. forestry reserves. Despite all the effort, time and money, lame sheep are still common.

It’s Time to Talk about Antimicrobials

Dr. Darrell Dalton

In 2014, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognized the increased development of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as a global crisis. Dr Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General of WHO stated, “Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill.” This will affect generations to come. Later that year, our federal Minister of Health demanded that an action plan be developed by Health Canada to address this issue in Canada.

Use and Perceptions of On-Farm Emergency Slaughter for Dairy Cows in British Columbia

Katie Koralesky and David Fraser

On-farm emergency slaughter (OFES) is one end-of-life option for farm animals that cannot be transported humanely but are fit for human consumption. OFES – whereby veterinary inspection, stunning (using a firearm) and bleeding occur on the farm before the carcass is transported to a slaughterhouse for processing – is allowed in several Canadian provinces including Alberta. The stated goals of most OFES programs are to prevent undue suffering of an injured animal and to salvage meat.

Welfare Parameters When Handling Bison

Roy Lewis DVM

Bison handlers know how quick and flighty bison can be when confined or stressed. They appear to have no respect for their bodies. We as their keepers must eliminate areas and conditions that place them at risk.

In the past it wasn’t uncommon to loose a bison from a broken neck or to have several injure themselves while they were being handled. As bison handlers we have improved our practices significantly but there is still room for improvement. We must be proactive as an industry. My goal in this article is to provide some suggestions for everyone handling bison as well as share some thought provoking scenarios.

Insights Into Dairy Farmers’ Management Decisions

Caroline Ritter and Herman Barkema

Bison handlers know how quick and flighty bison can be when confined or stressed. They appear to have no respect for their bodies. We as their keepers must eliminate areas and conditions that place them at risk.

In the past it wasn’t uncommon to loose a bison from a broken neck or to have several injure themselves while they were being handled. As bison handlers we have improved our practices significantly but there is still room for improvement. We must be proactive as an industry. My goal in this article is to provide some suggestions for everyone handling bison as well as share some thought provoking scenarios.

Selective Dry Cow Therapy and Antimicrobial Resistance

Diego Nobrega, Herman Barkema

As antimicrobial resistance is a global concern, there is a broad push to reducing antibiotic use. For example, in the dairy sector, selective dry cow therapy (only some cows or quarters are treated at drying off) is being promoted in lieu of traditional blanket dry cow therapy involving treatment of every quarter.

November 2017

Canadian Feedlot Animal Care Assessment Program

Dr. Joyce Van Donkersgoed

With increasing questions from the public on how livestock are raised, processors are increasingly pressured to provide proof that the fed cattle they purchase meet recognized welfare standards. National Cattle Feeders Association (NCFA), along with our federal processors, built a national feedlot welfare assessment/audit tool to provide reassurances to retailers and the public that feedlot cattle in Canada are raised humanely.

Understanding Broiler Gait Kinematics

By Victoria Kouritzin

Through genetic selection, the modern day broiler has undergone improvements in appetite, its ability to efficiently gain weight, and in its survivability. However, the resulting rapid growth in commercial broiler strains may also effect broiler gait.

Current gait assessment methods can be subjective as they rely on observers to determine the quality of a broiler’s gait using a short multi-point scale. This often results in subtle lameness being missed as most assessment methods were designed to only give an indication of either no problem or whether there is a severe gait concern.

Insights into the equine sector of the livestock industry

Bill desBarres

Compared to other sectors of the livestock industry equine may be classed as more fragmented. Many, if not most of the other livestock species are under or within umbrella organizations. Species populations in much of the livestock industry are concentrated by flocks, feedlots, herds etc. It may be submitted that for the most part patrons and enthusiasts of the equine sector may have fewer than four animals. For the most part owners of equine may not be members of a breed, discipline or other organization. This would submit most of the horse owners in Canada may be driven by a narrow passion.

Finding Ways to Ask Cows How They Feel

Dr. Gosia Zobel, AgResearch Ltd. Animal Welfare Team, Hamilton, New Zealand

As the public becomes more knowledgeable and more aware of food production practices, the need to provide assurances about the quality of life of our farm animals is growing in importance. This is, however, easier said than done given that many of the people not involved in agriculture rarely ask about how much milk a cow is producing but rather focus their questions on whether she is ‘happy’.

As a behaviour scientist working in the Animal Welfare Team at AgResearch in New Zealand, I have been given the mandate to look for ways to ask cows how they feel – in essence I am trying to find ways to determine their emotional response. My work is supported by DairyNZ Ltd., an industry organization representing New Zealand’s dairy farmers. The industry recognizes that a good life for cows is not simply about the absence of negative experiences, but also the provision for positive ones.

Creating and Housing the Modern Laying Hen

Dr. Victoria Sandilands, Behavioural Scientist Animal & Veterinary Sciences, SRUC Avian Science Research Centre

The poultry industry has evolved over the last several decades and it is important to understand how and why those changes have taken place. In this article we will explore the modern laying hen and why we can be proud of these birds.

The modern laying hen evolved from the insectivorous jungle fowl, which lived in dense forests and spent 60-80% of the day foraging. Historically speaking, poultry were the responsibility of the “farmer’s wife”. It was her job to feed and house the birds as well as to collect the eggs. These systems were largely outdoors with many birds running around freely during the day to peck and scratch for feed. The birds themselves were typically dual purpose and kept on mixed farms. Housing was in mixed sex groups, in naturally lit barns or outdoors. Shelter was sometimes provided in the form of a coop that birds would use to roost in at night. Birds were fed home-grown cereals and kitchen scraps. They received little to no vaccination or health care and were largely exposed to predators. For these reasons, birds did not grow to their full potential.

How to Successfully Raise Calves in Groups

Dr. Joao H.C. Costa

Producers typically castrate their bull calves anywhere between 1 week and 5 months of age and less commonly between 6 to 9 months of age with the exception of bulls destined for breeding. The most common methods used are band castration that restricts blood flow to the testicles and knife castration that involves immediate removal of the testicles by cutting. We know that both methods cause acute and chronic pain, increase stress and discomfort, and can reduce immune function and weight gain. In some instances these methods can cause infection or death due to
complications. It is because of this that there is heightened interest by the public and legislators regarding management of pain in food animals.

Sow Enrichment: Keeping Pigs Busy Could Improve Welfare

Victoria Kyeiwaa, Prairie Swine Centre

Research on different enrichment materials for pigs has shown that giving appropriate enrichments to growing pigs can result in reduced aggression, reduced fear, improved growth and fewer behavioural vices such as tail-biting. Some commonly used enrichment materials are straw, chains, wood, rope, mushroom compost, wood shavings, garden hose, peat moss and rubber balls.

Although European research has identified straw and other malleable and consumable materials as being optimal, there has been a reluctance to provide such materials in North America.


October 2016

Seeking a “Social Pig” in Canada to Improve Welfare

Dr.Elda Dervishi, University of Alberta

As we face the increasing size of the human population, it is projected that meat consumption will increase as well. At the same time, consumers are more aware and have increased their interest in traits related to animal welfare and health.By far, most pigs are finishers, kept in groups from 10 to, possibly, 400 or more. In these groups social skills of animals help to reduce stress. Too often we only observe from the negative side: traits like tail biting, aggressive behaviours resulting from stress,
aggressive social interactions with other pigs and with humans. Behavioural traits have the potential to change the efficiency of pork production in the future, while at the same time improving welfare and reducing medication. Therefore, they are becoming economically important traits in breeding programs.

Providing a Good Death on Farm

Dr. Melissa Moggy, Alberta Farm Animal Care

The decision to euthanise on farm is a difficult decision every producer has to make. Euthanising on farm may be necessary when a sick or injured animal is unresponsive to treatment, has a poor chance of recovery, and is unfit for transportation. When not performed correctly, on-farm euthanasia can cause unwanted pain and suffering.

Gunshot is one of the most common methods of euthanasia producers perform for production species.Benefits of this method are that it is suitable for all ages (given that the appropriate firearm is used), if properly performed it results in immediate unconsciousness, cost is relatively low, and it does not require the producer to get too close to the animal. This is likely not the most appropriate method for poultry, however. Regardless of the method used, producers must take safety measures for themselves and bystanders. Refer to your species-specific “Code of Practice” for more information on proper placement and appropriate methods of euthanasia (www.nfacc.ca).

Is there an optimal age and method of castration for calves under 6 months of age?

K.Schwartzkopf-Genswein, D. Melendez, E. Janzen, E.Pajor and S. Marti

Producers typically castrate their bull calves anywhere between 1 week and 5 months of age and less commonly between 6 to 9 months of age with the exception of bulls destined for breeding. The most common methods used are band castration that restricts blood flow to the testicles and knife castration that involves immediate removal of the testicles by cutting. We know that both methods cause acute and chronic pain, increase stress and discomfort, and can reduce immune function and weight gain. In some instances these methods can cause infection or death due to
complications. It is because of this that there is heightened interest by the public and legislators regarding management of pain in food animals.

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