Animals have to obey the law

Dr. Jörg Fritzemeier heads the veterinary office in Osnabrück and understands that some farmers roll their eyes annoyed when it comes to animal welfare. One-sided researched media reports, horror pictures on television and allegations by animal rights activists make it difficult for dairy farmers to deal actively and self-critically with animal welfare. The newly revised Animal Welfare Act now obliges them to do so: Animal owners must regularly carry out their own internal checks. So far, however, neither veterinary authorities nor farmers know exactly what this means. Dr. Jörg Fritzemeier explained to us in the context of the specialist cattle forum in Oldenburg.

Why are the existing rules no longer good enough? Are the animals becoming more sensitive?

Not that one. But which rules are cast into a law depends on various factors. Not only do the scientific findings change, public opinion also flows into the discussion. In an affluent society, in which many people no longer have direct contact with agriculture and at the same time have a close relationship with pets, the way in which livestock is kept is of greater importance. This can also be seen in the laws - politicians take the statements into consideration.

Where do the criteria come from that I will soon have to follow?

According to the law, the animal owners must regularly carry out internal inspections for animal welfare and submit these to the veterinary office during an inspection. To do this, both sides need uniform criteria or a checklist. Since such criteria or “animal welfare indicators” do not yet exist, the federal states have set up committees to deal with the development of these indicators.
In Lower Saxony there is the "Lower Saxony Animal Welfare Plan". Members from agriculture, animal welfare organizations, science, business and the church jointly discuss the conditions in modern livestock farming. The aim is to develop recommendations for keeping conditions that are socially acceptable and affordable for the animal owner. They should ensure animal welfare in a verifiable manner and strengthen consumer confidence.
"We don't want to dictate conditions, we want to find out how the best work and derive recommendations from them," says Dr. Fritzemeier from the veterinary arm in Osnabrück. However, it will take several years before the final results are available.

How do I comply with the law even though there are no guidelines yet?

The law still applies. Until the introduction of self-monitoring requirements, dairy farmers are on the safe side if they write down the health data of their herd. Document the conclusions you draw from the evaluations. What is important is that one systematicProcedure becomes recognizable.
Analyzes like these are suitable: How many calves are born dead on my farm? How high are the calf losses, how many cows are "involuntarily" lost in the first 100 days? How many animals are lame, how many show lying bumps or big hocks? Evaluations from a herd management program form a good basis. In addition, however, you should write down what you would like to change based on the numbers, e.g. make an appointment with the vet or check the care of the cubicles. In the long term, data that is already collected (MLP, slaughter findings, etc.) should be used so that the additional documentation effort remains manageable.
For dairy cattle, at least in Lower Saxony, the animal welfare indicators are expected to be developed in these areas:
  • Lifetime and overall vitality - fewer cows should die prematurely, more breeding for longevity
  • Exit from tethering and establishment of walkways
  • Dehorning - dehorning with minimization of pain, intensified for polledness
  • Reduce calf losses - reduce diseases, ensure treatment of bull calves

  • Lifetime and overall vitality - fewer cows should die prematurely, more breeding for longevity
  • Exit from tethering and establishment of walkways
  • Dehorning - dehorning with minimization of pain, intensified for polledness
  • Reduce calf losses - reduce diseases, ensure treatment of bull calves

What happens during an inspection?

“We cannot check anything for which there are no guidelines. However, you should be able to show that you have thought about this topic, ”explains Dr. Fritzemeier from the Osnabrück Veterinary Office. So far, controls in matters of animal welfare have mainly taken place in the context of cross compliance or when a report was made. In future, more risk-based controls are to be carried out. This means that those pet owners who have a higher risk of animal welfare problems (e.g. when tethered) get visits from the official veterinarian more often. The basis is Section 2 of the Animal Welfare Act (abbreviated): Anyone who keeps an animal must feed, care for and house it in accordance with their needs in accordance with their behavior.
The veterinary office controls the self-inspection. In the event of an offense, they are authorized to advise, to impose fines or, ultimately, to prohibit keeping.

Conclusion

When it comes to animal welfare, dairy farmers should be prepared for the following:
  • Operational self-control
  • Implementation of the concepts and results of the Lower Saxony animal welfare plan (if you live in Lower Saxony)
  • Risk-based controls
  • Public interest in livestock husbandry and nutrition issues

  • Operational self-control
  • Implementation of the concepts and results of the Lower Saxony animal welfare plan (if you live in Lower Saxony)
  • Risk-based controls
  • Public interest in livestock husbandry and nutrition issues

Official veterinarian Dr. Jörg Fritzemeier appeals: “Please do not close yourself off to change. You can be critical, but work constructively and help shape it. You can achieve more together than against each other. "