Advancing animal well-being in practices and on farms

At Bayer, we are strongly committed to animal well-being, an area that is of increasing emphasis for veterinarians, farmers and pet owners around the world. Our team in Europe was determined to make an even greater contribution for the benefit of animals, and collaborated with experts from the Autonomous University of Barcelona in a comprehensive well-being program for veterinary clinics and farms. 

 

The animal well-being challenge

In many small animal veterinary clinics, practice staff ensures that animals’ basic needs are catered for: they provide water to quench thirst, outdoor spaces for breaks that just can’t wait, and even treats for well-behaved ‘patients’. As the science of animal welfare continues to evolve, experts increasingly recommend for veterinarians, farmers and pet owners to look beyond meeting animals’ basic needs.

Improvements for the well-being of pets and farm animals are not necessarily complex, nor do they always require large investments. Furthermore, it has been established that in the context of farms, if well-being is not properly defined, measured, and maintained, it affects output and other important productivity parameters. The challenge is that improvements for well-being aren’t always easy to implement if one doesn’t know where to start.

“Increasingly, consumers want products and services that take animal well-being into account. Veterinarians and farmers are, and need to, evolve to meet these expectations. At Bayer, we are committed to advancing animal health and well-being. This is why we actively share our expertise in this area with veterinarians, farmers and pet owners,” said Uwe Mucke, Head of Commercial Operations Europe, Bayer Animal Health.

 

Our three-part solution

Led by Dr Xavier Manteca, Professor at the Department of Animal and Food Science at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) and veterinarian Marta Amat at the UAB’s Clinical Ethology Service, the team created a three-part program focused on practical animal well-being skills: one designed specifically for small animal veterinary practice teams, another for farm workers, and a third dedicated to training Bayer Animal Health employees.

Working alongside the prestigious Companion Animal Welfare Education Center (CAWEC) and the Farm Animal Welfare Education Center (FAWEC), the teams visit participating small animal veterinary clinics and farms, respectively, and jointly define ways to optimize animal well-being. In a second visit, the team evaluates the adjustments and progress, offering accreditations to those that achieve the appropriate standards.

In some veterinary practices, setting-up separate waiting rooms for dogs and cats, for example, is just physically not possible. Nevertheless, adjustments for creating a suitable environment for animals can be as simple as scheduling appointments for cats and dogs at different times and keeping cat carriers covered in the waiting room. Even laying a non-slip surface on the examination table can help to make it a more comfortable experience for animals.

On cattle and swine farms, the team collaborates with producers to define farm-specific measures that put animals first, along with an easy-to-implement evaluation system that allows for timely action as needed. Modifications to reduce stress in animals have included maintaining an adequate temperature on farm, enforcing a minimum number of rest hours for animals, and paying due attention to lameness, in the case of dairy cows.

The online training program upskills Bayer Animal Health employees across 10 European countries, so that they are better able to give farm and practice-specific recommendations for advancing animal well-being. The training includes topics such as the feeding, housing and natural behavior needs of both pets and farm animals.

The training culminates with a visit, together with a well-being expert from the UAB, to a dairy cattle farm, so that participants can put their new skills into practice. The team has found this course to be valuable as they are further equipped to address daily challenges related to animal well-being, an aspect that has an increasing bearing on their day-to-day work.

 

Dairy farmer receives accreditation as an animal well-being center
A dairy farmer from Castilla la Mancha in Spain achieves accreditation as an animal well-being center

The result

The animal well-being programme has been very well received by veterinarians, farmers and Bayer Animal Health employees. Many veterinary clinics and dairy farms across Spain are already accredited animal well-being centres, and the program is being extended to other parts of Europe.

“Vets and farmers have shown a very positive response to our animal well-being program, since it also has the support of CAWEC and FAWEC, both prestigious organizations. In the case of small animal clinics, it is the only program that covers both dogs and cats, with specific recommendations for each. And farmers see that if they implement the recommendations, not only does the well-being of their animals improve, their productivity also increases, boosting the profitability of the farm,” says Uwe Mucke.

This is only the beginning – the team continues to adapt the program, further establishing Bayer as a leader in animal well-being and advancing industry knowledge to provide a better environment for animals.

Uwe Mucke concludes, “Thanks to the success of this animal welfare program in Europe, we are extending it to other countries as a comprehensive program that covers the most significant aspects of health and well-being for both pets and farm animals.”

 

"Quiet area. Please do not disturb" signage
"Quiet area. Please do not disturb" signage provided to veterinary clinics for use when pets or their owners need some privacy.
"Designated area for cats" signage
Helping create well-being friendly spaces for pets in the waiting areas of veterinary clinics with stickers that indicate designated areas for cats.