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Stakeholders’ perceptions of the challenges to improving calf health and reducing antimicrobial use in Swiss veal production

Rell, Julia; Wunsch, Nadine; Home, Robert; Kaske, Martin; Walkenhorst, Michael and Vaarst, Mette (2020) Stakeholders’ perceptions of the challenges to improving calf health and reducing antimicrobial use in Swiss veal production. Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 179, p. 104970.

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Document available online at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0167587719308165?via%3Dihub


Large quantities of antimicrobials are used in Swiss veal production. To develop strategies to reduce antimicrobial use, it is important to understand how stakeholders along the veal production chain perceive the current situation and to find the key issues that challenge them about calf health management and antimicrobial use. However, there has been insufficient research into the individual contexts of the supply chain actors, and the central themes that they perceive to enable or limit their actions remain largely unknown. The aim of this study is to investigate the perceptions of the current situation of the Swiss veal production system, in terms of calf health management and antimicrobial use held by industry stakeholders, i.e. dairy farmers, veal producers, traders, slaughterhouse managers, advisors and veterinarians. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 27 respondents and analyzed using content analysis. The results show that stakeholders are aware of the current need to minimize resistance development and the related risks for public health by reducing antimicrobial use. The main reason for high antimicrobial use was nominated as the practice of purchasing calves from many different dairy farms and bringing them together in large groups at a young age, which exposes them to a variety of pathogens that their still developing immune systems are not able to cope with. To prevent and combat infectious diseases which are a frequent consequence of this practice, antimicrobial group treatments are commonly administered, which significantly raises the total amount of antimicrobials used. Group level treatments with antimicrobials were associated directly with the large-scale veal farming system, which uses excess calves from specialized dairy farms, and which the respondents perceive to cause financial pressure and mutual dependencies among participants.
In addition, disunity between actors was perceived as a further challenge to find strategies for the reduction of antimicrobial use. The respondents suggested downscaling the production system so that calves can be treated individually but conceded that the current system may be very difficult to change, so also suggested various improvement measures within the existing system. The results of this study provide a basis for further research to investigate possible interventions that could considerably reduce antimicrobial use in veal production.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:animal health, calf health, antimictobial use, livestock production, FiBL50072, Abacus, ImproCalf
Agrovoc keywords:
animal health
livestock production
Subjects: Animal husbandry > Production systems > Beef cattle
Animal husbandry > Health and welfare
Values, standards and certification > Consumer issues
Research affiliation:Austria > Univ. VMU Wien
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Animal > Cattle
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Animal > Animal health > Epidemiology
Switzerland > Zürich University
Denmark > AU - Aarhus University > Faculty of Science and Technology > Department of Animal Science
Related Links:https://www.fibl.org/en/themes/projectdatabase/projectitem/project/1229.html
Deposited By: Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau, FiBL
ID Code:38843
Deposited On:18 Jan 2021 10:08
Last Modified:31 Jan 2021 13:03
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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