Over the years, breeders have realized that good management practices aimed at animal welfare can represent, contrary to what was thought, a lower production cost in the long term. Animal health is essential for good livestock production, both in quality and quantity. Animal health involves a work of prevention, planning and care with the quality of life of the herds, so that production is greater and better.
Animals only reach the maximum of their genetic potential when they have good quality nutrition available at each stage of their development, as well as appropriate care, environmental comfort and respect for natural behavior and mental health.
Healthy animals guarantee the quality of the livestock sector chain in the national and international context and also protect public health and the environment. The incidence of outbreaks such as foot-and-mouth disease, mad cow disease and avian flu causes damage to world trade and public health concern, in addition to highlighting the importance of caring for animal health.
Each animal species has its own metabolism, so each production system has different management techniques. But the principles of animal health are common to all types of livestock. The UK Farm Animal Welfare Committee (FAWC) was the first body to issue guidelines on the minimum acceptable treatment for animals on farms.
According to the agency, animals must be free from fear and stress; of thirst and hunger; from any discomfort; of pain, injuries and illness; and yet, free to express their natural behavior. Welfare, therefore, requires responsible management of animals, with adequate living conditions, disease prevention, thoughtful handling and transport, and slaughter with less suffering.
Achieving high standards of animal welfare requires not causing unnecessary suffering and meeting some, but not all, needs of the animal. Some pain and anguish are unavoidable in livestock, with current knowledge and practices. Fitting the tail of lambs to minimize the risk of fly attack and cutting the beak of laying hens are examples of this. But the objective of environmental health is to minimize the occurrence of situations of suffering.
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