With around 77 million bovines, over 140 million pigs, around 400 million laying hens, and over 60 million sheep, Europe’s vets have their work cut out to keep an eye on their health and welfare. On top of that we have domestic populations of just over 100 million cats and around 85 million dogs. Practicing veterinarians in Europe however count just over 309,000 individuals.
We know that animal welfare awareness in European society has increased notably in recent decades. And good well-being both for companion and farm animals is expected to be a common societal norm.
From biology to technology
From the very first biological preparations or vaccines to provide active acquired immunity to infectious diseases like anthrax and rabies, the animal health sector is today looking at a range of smart technologies that can support veterinarians, farmers and other owners to provide good care for animals from the earliest stages of their existence.
Smart technologies in the animal health space are being developed to monitor animal health and welfare parameters in a continuous and automated way, offering the opportunity to detect any issues at a very early stage. The use of big data, the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence are driving innovation in many sectors in terms of efficiencies, but these technological advances are also developed with consideration of the living, breathing animal from the very beginning. In this sense animal health and welfare are much more than just an isolated aspect within the whole livestock production process.
Increased transparency, increased control
Reliable data and measurements on the health and welfare of animals coming from fully automated and continuous image, sound and sensor technologies help to increase both transparency and traceability of livestock farming. Algorithms used to gain more insights into animal welfare require detailed analysis and understanding of the data collected to serve as more than simple early-warning systems.
Further developments in these smart technologies mean they can serve not only to monitor but also to deliver active advice to the farmer on what to do when an issue is signalled. When this data is shared with the veterinarian, a plan of action can be agreed upon and put into play to ensure the good well-being of the animal in question, and to protect the wider group of animals against any potential for disease spread.
Such innovations could also potentially play an important role in the establishment of science-based indicators for an animal welfare labelling system. Such data collection can support a trusted system that works in an easy way to catch appropriate and objective information. This will help consumers to trust the value of animal welfare indicators in the food products they buy.
Smarter care for pets
Advances in animal health technologies are not reserved purely for ensuring the health and welfare of Europe’s livestock, as new technologies are also providing pet parents with the opportunity to ensure our companion animals live longer and healthier lives as we better understand their needs. Pet wearables are growing in popularity as they allow both the guardian and the veterinarian – when data is shared – to track health metrics in order to monitor and manage things like exercise and weight control, or even chronic illnesses. Again with these earlier insights into the pet’s health status, potential issues can be flagged early on and corrective steps can be taken to ensure improved well-being.
It’s all about balance
Maintaining a balance between use of smart technologies and hands-on care and attention in our relationships with animals is important for a sustainable future. These innovative animal health solutions are not just about ensuring production efficiencies and reducing environmental impacts in farming. They play an important role in helping farmers focus on raising animals in an attentive way.
Connected animal health and welfare indicators help to create synergies and link all the aspects of veterinary care to support pet owners in caring for their animals, and to support farmers with more holistic farm management. Consolidating information from many different spheres of the animal’s world serves to give a more complete and objective picture of their health and well-being.