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Publicação FAO: Enhancing animal welfare and farmer income through strategic animal feeding
Good nutrition is the fundamental requirement for all farm animals and it is considered as one of the biggest contributors to animal welfare. Improper nutrition not only affects productivity but also the health, behaviour and welfare of an animal. At the same time, the safety and quality of the food chain is indirectly affected by the welfare of farm animals due to the close links among animal welfare, animal health and food-borne diseases such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, etc. Stress factors, poor welfare and imbalanced nutrition can increase susceptibility to diseases among animals, thus increasing the need for veterinary treatment, posing risks to food consumers, decreasing profitability and endangering environmental sustainability of the livestock production systems and of the associated animal food chains.
Increasing worldwide demand for animal products is imposing a huge strain not only on the natural resources but also on farm animals. In intensive production systems, animals are being pushed towards maximizing productivity, while in the extensive and smallholder systems in developing countries animal productivity and welfare are compromised by inadequate nutrition. Even in intensive production systems where animals receive abundant nutritious diets, animal welfare could be impaired due to excessive or inappropriate feeding.
An array of management-related factors – such as housing and bedding, restraining systems, space and crowding, transport conditions, stunning and slaughter methods, castration of males and tail docking – affect welfare.
A large body of literature exists on how these factors impact on animal welfare, health, productivity and product quality, but little attention has been paid to understanding the linkages between animal nutrition and animal welfare. This knowledge is a pre-requisite for drawing up policy options and guidelines for establishing livestock production systems that are humane, socially acceptable, efficient and environmentally friendly.
Farmers find it difficult to adopt practices that promote animal welfare without having sound information on the impact of such practices on animal productivity and their income.
Any such practice that does not increase farmers’ incomes is unlikely to be followed, especially in developing countries. At the Expert Consultation held at FAO headquarters in Rome in September 2011, participants called for a series of case studies to document existing practices that enhance animal welfare as well as farmers’ incomes; currently, such studies are few and far between.
This document presents a number of such studies and it is hoped that the information they contain will encourage researchers and agencies working in the area of animal welfare to initiate studies to capture the impact of any intervention on farmers’ incomes – an area that has been neglected to date. It is also envisaged that these studies could pave the way for developing guidelines and policy options to promote sustainable animal feeding that enhances animal welfare, animal productivity, animal product quality and profitability.