Other Angus Journal
event sites …
  1. Beef Improvement Federation
  2. Applied Reproductive Strategies in Beef Cattle
  3. National Angus Conference
  4. Range Beef Cow Symposium

Visit the Angus Journal
topic library …

The topic sites in our library offer gateways to information on body condition scoring, beef cow efficiency, country-of-origin labeling, targeting the Certified Angus Beef® brand and more.

Sign up for ...
  1. Angus Journal
  2. Angus Beef Bulletin
  3. Angus Journal Daily
  4. Angus Beef Bulletin EXTRA

Angus Journal

Copyright © 2014
Angus Journal

Practical Applications in Animal Welfare

Animal welfare scientists relate purpose and measures of animal well-being.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Feb. 4, 2014) — “We have a moral obligation to treat the animals in our care humanely,” Karen Schwartzkopf-Genswein, beef welfare scientist with Agriculture Canada, told attendees of the 21st Cattlemen’s College hosted during the 2014 Cattle Industry Convention in Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 3-7.

Animal welfare is not just a buzzword, she emphasized. Its technical definition is the multifaceted concept combining animal, technical, legal and human perspectives. It is the state of an individual as it attempts to cope with its environment, and welfare is adversely affected when the animal must shift energy away from biological functions to manage discomfort or pain. Behavior is the first indicator an animal isn’t doing well.

Welfare matters because it has a relationship to animal health, food quality and food safety. Public and consumer concern also make it relevant, and mean that animal welfare will not go away, she said. Compromised welfare equals a stress response, which suppresses the animal’s immune system, increases morbidity and mortality, lowers feed intake and growth, and increases antibiotic use and pathogen shedding.

Often dismissed as a soft science, there are quantifiable and objective ways to measure animal welfare. Behavior observations can be counted, like tail flicking, foot stomping, vocalization, escape behavior, respiration rate, panting and drooling, feeding and drinking, lying or standing, walking, locomotion score, posture or body alignment and rumination. Cattle are often noted as stoic animals, and pain is hard to notice, but Schwartzkopf-Genswein says cattle are anything but stoic if you observe them closely enough.

Physiological signals include cortisol in the blood, saliva or hair; catecholamines or adrenaline; substance P, a neuropeptide biomarker of pain; immune function; and infrared thermography and heart rate. These can show that the body is reacting to certain stresses and to what extent.

Farm Check

Dean Danilson of Tyson’s FarmCheck™ program explained that the program was designed to maintain responsible on-farm treatment of animals. He noted that customer requests have changed from 15 years ago. Back then, they wanted to ensure proper handling was done at the slaughter facilities. Now they want to ensure proper handling is done in all aspects of the supply chain. This program is designed to hold all suppliers of Tyson accountable, but not to tell producers how to raise their animals.

Danilson mentioned that consumers like beef and pork quality-assurance programs, but they don’t like that they are voluntary and without a third-party audit.

The FarmCheck program launched in 2012 with its business-to-business pork audits. The beef program is still in the works, with a projected timeline of a mid- to late-2014 launch.

“You can say what you’re doing, but it has to be verified to be credible,” Danilson explained.

“Report cards” from the pork audits have indicated areas that could use improvement. For instance, improvements could be made in animal welfare training, site self-checks from managers, and daily observations. He said Tyson will work with producers if any areas are unacceptable or need improvement to improve those practices or management.

“It doesn’t tell you how to manage your animals, but it will observe if animals are handled appropriately,” he concluded. “The supply chain accountability has changed. If we don’t do it, someone else will do it for us. We don’t want undercover videos to be the driver of business. We are blessed that the beef industry doesn’t have a real ‘lightning rod’ issue right now, but let’s keep it that way.”

Editor’s Note: The above article was written under contract or by staff of the Angus Journal. It may not be reprinted without express permission of the Angus Journal. To request reprint permission, contact the editor at 816-383-5200.

www.4cattlemen.com is an event coverage site provided by the Angus Journal editorial team,which publishes the Angus Journal, the Angus Beef Bulletin, the Angus Beef Bulletin EXTRA and the Angus Journal Daily. For questions about this site, to submit an article for our consideration, or to report a broken link, contact the editor at 816-383-5200; 3201 Frederick Ave., Saint Joseph, MO 64506.

The Angus Journal claims copyright to this website as presented. We welcome educational venues and cattlemen to link to this site as a service to their audience.