Issues on the mind of every U.S. livestock producer this year include the drought-reduced harvest, high feed costs and lower market prices, according to the Michigan State University Extension team.
These issues will directly affect how producers manage their business and make financial decisions in the near future. With concerns like these is it hard to look beyond the immediate challenges ahead and consider other issues that may have a long-term effect on livestock farming. Worldwide on-farm animal care practices which cause short-term pain continue to receive a significant amount of public attention.
As we move into an era where consumers are increasingly concerned about how their food is raised, producers have no choice but to learn more about how the ongoing discussion may affect their work in the future.
Common production practices such as castration, tail docking and de-horning are being examined and reviewed for their efficiency, necessity and impact on the on the animal and its well-being. There is increasing public concern about the pain an animal may experience. New or adjusted production practices that improve animal care and decrease pain may be in the future.
Animal care and well-being is not a new concept for producers. In 1989 the National Pork Board (NPB) developed Pork Quality Assurance (PQA) Plus, an education and assessment program geared toward good production practices. PQA Plus contains an animal care and well-being component that was added to the program in 2007 which helps guide producers in the care of their animals and assures consumers that proper care is given.
However, pain management regarding common production practices is a new concept for livestock producers. These production practices in question warrant an in-depth evaluation of the pain that is incurred by the animal during these experiences prior to any changes in management or mandates.
In Europe, the French National Institute for Agricultural Research has already begun tackling this issue by appointing a committee to look into the issues surrounding pain management on livestock farms. Minimizing pain for food production animals looks to be a common concept for the European nations in the near future.
Producers in the United States are committed to producing a safe, healthy product for consumers, while creating a sustainable food production business. It is safe to say that as we look into the future of livestock production emphasis will be on further research of animal well-being in regarding pain management and producers will continue to provide their animals with the best care possible.