In addition to conventional housing systems, we see a range of often less intensive, more small-scale, organic, circular and nature-inclusive systems emerging. We see that with all production animals, such as poultry, pigs and cattle. If animals are more likely to show their natural behaviour, this also benefits their health. They develop a better immune system, which makes them sick less quickly and for a lesser time.
The experts at Wageningen Livestock Research develop innovative livestock farming systems that integrate requirements of production, animal welfare, social context and the environment. This is done in large design processes with multiple parties involved.
Group farrowing for pigs
In addition to this type of total concept design, we also develop partial concepts. An example is group farrowing, in which five to seven sows with their litters live together in a pen and develop a social structure. A challenging environment with pen enrichment such as straw meets the natural need of animals to explore their environment and look for food.
Risk of free range
We also investigate the risk of diseases with free-range systems. Consider, for example, the common liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica), a parasitic flatworm in sheep and dairy cattle, among others. This disease is transmitted by snails that live in wet grasslands. The aim is to prevent this infection while the animals can still walk outside.
Our research shows that welfare measures can lead to business benefits. Such as better animal health, less use of antibiotics, better growth and a higher return.
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