Worker burn-out is ’zero-sum’ game for welfare of livestock

Farm businesses must be adequately staffed to help ensure the best outcomes for animals, according to leading specialist Dr. Temple Grandin.

She warned that animal husbandry and welfare practices could be compromised when farmers become over-tired and jobs are not carried out properly.

“Farmers that are over-worked are doing themselves no favours. And, in addition, they will not be doing what is right for their stock,” she said.

For example, vaccination programmes may be only half completed, or not done at all.

“Sick animals may be missed or over-looked and, generally speaking, jobs that are critically important and, which have a major impact on farm businesses’ bottom line, may not be addressed with the required level of competency.

“This is a scenario that is now all too apparent on farms in the US.  And stockmanship levels are suffering as a consequence.”

Grandin, who was a recent visitor to Ireland, said that animals feel pain irrespective of whether or not they have emotions.

She said: “The core objective for every livestock farmer must be to provide a pain-free environment for his or her animals.

“And, in this regard, preventing lameness is a number one priority. Work in the US has shown that a consistent approach to the issue will pay dividends.

“Lameness problems can be reduced to almost zero levels. But the starting-off point must be an accurate assessment of how bad the problem is at the outset. The fact is that lameness can be measured. The same principle holds where issues such as swollen joints are concerned.”

She added: “The dirtiness of animals is another issue that resonates strongly with the public at large”.

The animal welfare specialist also said that flooring systems have a critical role to play in determining lameness levels on livestock farms.

“Providing animals with sufficient grip is of paramount importance,” she said.