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Animal Welfare as a Key Component of Daily Poultry Routine

1 July 2012, at 12:00am

With the appointment of a new director of world animal welfare, Cobb is putting an ever greater focus on this aspect of production. The new appointee, Dr Kate Barger, outlines her views on welfare and the challenges ahead in the latest issue of Cobb Focus.

Animal welfare is not a ‘new’ concept or trend. For years, farmers and managers in poultry production have incorporated aspects of animal welfare into their daily routine for livestock.

Animal welfare has been, and will continue to be, directly linked with animal health, best management practices and production.

As such, the responsibility for ensuring optimal production and animal well-being involves everyone in the production chain — farmer, manager, quality assurance personnel, veterinarian, nutritionist, transporter, vaccination team, etc. Each individual must therefore be conscious of their role in providing consistency and verification for the best animal care practices.

When considering the evolution of attention on animal welfare, it is easy to see that this topic now has a greater ‘presence’ than ever in the media and is widely included in scientific studies and publications.

The reason for this is the challenge in determining what is ‘best’ for the well-being of animals in their present environment while also complying with the demands that governments, industry, consumers and/or society may place on the farmer or on the animal. Specifically, we now have to seek a balance in what the ‘expectations or priorities should be’ and what the ‘performance or actual priorities are’ for all parties involved.

For example, some critics will point to today’s global and modernised agricultural operations as not being diligent in their care of, or response to, their animals’ needs. However, if we evaluate the facts and figures associated with these modern farming systems during the past decade, we can see that the majority are still owned and operated by family farmers and the actual well-being outcome of the flocks has improved with novel technology, improved breeding stock and advances in animal husbandry practices. Nonetheless, there are many opportunities for advanced scientific evaluation, innovative thinking and attention to continuous improvement in many different aspects of poultry production.

As a global poultry primary breeding company, Dr Barger says Cobb has tremendous responsibility and equally a remarkable opportunity to be a leader in animal welfare — for the benefit of the birds that we produce and for the benefit of the farmers responsible for their care around the world.

As part of Cobb’s commitment to realise this goal, the Company recognises that animal welfare involves everyone from the company president to the farm and hatchery employees, its research and genetics team, and its world technical team members who provide direct support for customers, she added.

In Dr Barger’s view, the obligation to being the best in animal welfare also involves working closely with external researchers and allied industries to improve the understanding of the combined effect of genetics, environment and management on the bird’s well-being. To remain competitive and to provide customers with a product with optimal genetics, Cobb has and will continue to include the selection of many different measurements and traits directly linked to animal well-being, optimal health and efficient production.

With the new full-time position to focus on animal welfare, Cobb continues to emphasise the importance of animal welfare as a key component in daily poultry practices.

In this new position Dr Barger says she will be working to provide consistent training and evaluation of best husbandry practices for company employees, and support product development needs and research, while also formatting an animal welfare strategy to address the integrity of Cobb’s programme and prospective areas for innovation and improvement.

Further Reading

Go to our news item on animal welfare by clicking here.
July 2012