Atria’s bovine chain has maintained a practice of monitoring animal health and welfare through regular check-ups for more than a decade. Since the Naseva cattle health care form was revised in winter 2012, even more detailed data has been available from farms regarding stocking conditions and animal health and welfare. This level of scrutiny of production farms is unique by international comparison. Health issues – increased mortality, mastitis in dairy cows and respiratory infections and diarrhoea in calves – have been noted at some farms. However, only slightly less than 10 per cent of farm entries deviate from the target level set for each individual health aspect. Corrective action was deemed necessary in fewer than one per cent of issues controlled.
Researchers agree that behaviour is the best indicator of animal welfare. In 2014, behavioural observations were in line with the target level in more than 98 per cent of cases. International reports indicate behavioural issues in 10–30 per cent of cattle. Disruptions are usually due to insufficient access to straw forage and pail-feeding of calves, which does not satisfy the suckling instinct.
Among Atria’s cattle farms, 80.3 per cent de-horn calves using analgesic as recommended, although the procedure can legally be conducted without pain relief at a much lower cost.
In accordance with the Naseva bovine health guidelines, general health checks are carried out at least once per year.