The health of agricultural livestock plays a key role in the area of tension between consumer health protection, animal welfare and profitability. The health of mankind is extensively dependent on animal health; maintaining it equates to active animal protection, and healthy animals are the farmer’s business capital. No matter whether infections, parasitoses, udder diseases, metabolic or fertility problems are involved, they all impact on the animals’ performance and therefore the economic situation of the agricultural enterprise. Agricultural success is and will therefore continue to be based on healthy livestock. In order to maintain its health, veterinary surgeons are now being called upon to provide increasing advisory expertise in terms of husbandry and feeding issues in addition to specialist medical knowledge.
However, these increasingly complex veterinary requirements are faced with an acute problem: a shortage of veterinary surgeons. Of the roughly 22,000 veterinary surgeons currently practising in Germany (including around 12,000 practice owners and 10,000 salaried vets), only around 3,500 are still involved in the care of agricultural livestock. “Veterinary resources are becoming increasingly scarce, especially in rural areas, because there is a lack of young talent in curative care,” explains Heiko Färber, managing director of the Bundesverband Praktizierender Tierärzte (bpt - German Association of Practising Veterinary Surgeons). The reasons for this are varied. Besides the desire for proximity to an urban setting and the work/life balance, the working conditions that are still difficult in part as well as insufficient selection processes for veterinary medicine students are also playing a role among the younger generation. Ever increasing statutory requirements and the related bureaucracy are additionally exacerbating the situation.
This is confirmed by taking a look at the national implementation of the EU Veterinary Medicinal Products Regulation, because the latest (first) amendment of the German Veterinary Medicinal Products Act not only establishes additional reporting obligations, but is also aimed at further reducing necessary antibiotic treatments although the use of antibiotics in (livestock) farming has already been reduced by more than 60 percent over the past ten years. This figure is proof positive that veterinary surgeons and animal owners are emphatically committed to the concept of one health. A further reduction in necessary antibiotic treatments poses a serious risk of negative impacts on animal health and therefore animal protection. This was recently pointed out very clearly once again by the bpt in the expert hearing of the Bundestag’s Committee on Food and Agriculture on October 17 of this year.
In the opinion of the veterinary profession, the easing of framework conditions for the immigration of skilled workers, as proposed by the German Federal Government in its skilled workers strategy, is not sufficient by itself to counteract this trend, which poses a risk to animal protection in Germany. What is required instead is the speedy relaxation of the German Working Time Act to enable more flexible deployment of the ever-growing group of salaried veterinary surgeons as well as a significant reduction in bureaucracy so that the increasingly scant working time that is available can actually be used for working on animals and therefore for animal health.
In parallel with the often long-winded regulatory processes, technical innovations can also ensure husbandry conditions that are appropriate to the respective species, thus improving animal protection. This is a matter very close to Heiko Färber’s heart: “The Animal Welfare Awards presented by the bpt together with DLG serve precisely this purpose. Those of the new developments/innovations presented at EuroTier that make a particular contribution to animal welfare and animal health are selected for this.” This year’s three winners are dedicated to the automated early detection of respiratory diseases in pig sties, teat health and the physiological lying down and getting up of dairy cows in cubicles. “With these impressive innovations, we can achieve benefits for the animals far more quickly than with regulations. For me, this is One Health-work in action,” says a delighted Färber.
Presentation of the Animal Welfare Awards as part of the International Animal Health Event from 6.30 p.m. to 7.30 p.m. on Thursday, 17.11.2022, in room 1 b (room level) at the Convention Center.