A greener, digitally enhanced future for EU livestock farmers
Today in Europe every sector is called on to live up to the EU Green Deal. Livestock farmers and the wider agri-food sector are playing their part. And the animal health sector is there to both serve and enhance the livestock sector and support Europe’s aims for climate neutrality and a sustainable food system, through a drive for technology-centred innovations.
Our industry is currently at the forefront of a technological and digital transformation offering alternative solutions to farmers collectively known as Precision Livestock Farming. Breakthroughs in biotechnology, detection tools and robotics, genomic testing, and advanced vaccines, amongst others, are set to become essential tools for the future of both livestock farming and the veterinary profession. These advances can support farmers in optimising the health of animals to reduce environmental impacts, ensure better traceability, improve animal welfare and support responsible use of medicines, amongst others.
More precision, less resources
The use of tools such as sound diagnostics, monitoring sensors, or digital body composition scoring is changing the way we farm. By optimising the management of animal health these tools help farmers to reduce environmental impacts through more precise uses of feed and water, and through a more targeted use of therapies. Farms are generally quite noisy places, making it difficult for farmers to detect specific sounds indicating health issues, such as a cough. With sound diagnostics on pig farms for example, farmers and their veterinarians can detect issues up to two weeks earlier than through conventional methods, helping to spot signs of respiratory illness early-on and reducing the number of animals requiring treatment.
Working directly with their smartphones, farmers can also keep a digitalised scoring of their animals’ weight, size, etc. as well as their location in extensive farming, which helps to create significant efficiencies in terms of feed intake or aspects of health management such as disease occurrence or vaccination. And when connected to farm management software, this data can easily be shared with the veterinarian to ensure a more consistent and improved care for their animals.
More prediction, less losses
Genomic predictions and other diagnostic testing tools help farmers with the earlier detection of diseases allowing for better control and management of potential illness and helping to avoid food losses like milk and eggs directly at farm level. Use of genomic testing in breeding programmes can, from the outset, help the sector to favour genetic improvements that harness sustainability traits in animals, such as: fertility; improved feed efficiency; welfare; and resilience against disease in livestock, poultry, and aquaculture.
Enhanced diagnostic tests also make diagnosis much easier as they can be carried out directly on the farm, helping veterinarians in confirming the health status of an animal and allowing for early identification of a disease pathogen. This enables more targeted care and helps the farmer with ensuring that produce gets to market more efficiently.
More prevention, less illness
Vaccines prevent many illnesses and save numerous animal lives every year. Conventional vaccines will continue to be important in livestock farming as they provide durable protection against a variety of dangerous diseases. Today, new vaccine technologies are coming more and more into the mainstream as their high potency and capacity for rapid development offer potential cost-savings while ensuring safe administration. Modern vaccine administration methods also ensure greater benefits for veterinarians and farmers through ease of use and reliability, as well as for animals in terms of health and welfare.
Ensuring access to such cutting-edge technologies and the knowledge and skills to use these tools will support an innovative, dynamic and modern livestock sector that will positively contribute to the EU Green Deal while helping to attract new talent to Europe’s rural areas. A digitally enhanced future will provide a way for livestock farmers to achieve Farm to Fork goals through ‘smart’ solutions that optimise animal health and welfare.