Circularity in livestock farming and animal health and welfare

Circular agrofood system with robust animals

The vision of ‘Valuable and Connected’ by Minister Schouten of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) is a plea for a sustainable, circular agrofood system. In a circular agrofood system, many more residual flows from the food industry are processed into animal feed. Another aim is to use more animal manure, so that less synthetic fertilizer is required. But to be able to properly use animal manure on the land again, the quality will have to be optimal.

Resilient animals

In today’s livestock farming, many animals can be compared to top athletes. They receive high-quality, precisely formulated animal feed, for which many raw materials are imported. In the future, animals will have to be able to function within a much wider range of feed and circumstances. They must be able to deal with strongly fluctuating residual flows and big differences in feed composition. This has positive as well as negative effects on their (intestinal) health and welfare. The animals have to become more robust and resilient. The experts at Wageningen Livestock Research are investigating which animal species are suitable for functioning within a circular agrofood system.

Alternative feed

It is important that the alternative protein sources for circular feed do not have any negative (and even rather positive) effects on the health and welfare of the animal. For example, an alternative protein-rich crop to replace imported soy is esparcette, a relative of the lupine, called "healthy hay" by French farmers. This crop promotes intestinal health and reduces the risk of worm infection in sheep and other ruminants.

Fewer antibiotics and worming agents

In order to be able to properly use the animal manure on land again, the residues of antibiotics and dewormers that can harm soil life and aquatic animals, for example, must be further reduced. From that perspective, we conduct research on various animal species into possibilities to further reduce the use of antibiotic and anti-parasitic agents.

Ask your research question

We are glad to help you find an answer to questions about animal health and welfare. Please contact our expert: