Parasitic diseases and markers for the assessment of animal welfare with applications in grazing livestock

Last changed: 21 April 2017

The long-term objective of this project is to develop the basis of a framework for sustainable livestock production encompassing parasite control strategies and animal welfare aspects. We will explore a set of specific aims that will enable us to trace multispecies parasite infections and welfare indicators of grazing livestock. The identification of “hot spots” of parasite infections will open up for targeted intervention, which can prevent parasitic disease through low use of dewormers (anthelmintics) and thereby improve the animal welfare.

Global livestock production must be intensified to meet the demand from a growing population. However, this must not be at the expense of reduced animal health and deteriorated animal welfare. Infections with parasitic worms (helminths) of ruminants is a major constraint on an efficient livestock production. The challenge is to develop indicators that detect welfare impact of helminth parasites on farms in order to target control measures. The overall objective of the project is twofold. First we will investigate the role of multiple parasite infections on established animal welfare indicators of grazing animals. Second we will examine how antiparasitic measures such as targeted treatment can alleviate unnecessary suffering of affected animals. To do this we need to develop improved welfare indicators, for example, based on automatic registration of the growth and activity patterns and complemented with tests to detect parasites with current molecular techniques. The application falls within the announced area of research because it aims to investigate the role of multiple parasite infections in connection with the promotion of animal welfare in sheep and cattle. It will not only lead to the development and implementation of measures to actively enhance animal welfare but also strengthen animal protection by developing sustainable methods of parasite control. But we will also focus on more fundamental issues about how parasites affect host animals from an animal welfare perspective.

The project is funded by Formas until 2020

Project leader: Johan Höglund

Collaborators: Adam Novobilsky (BVF), Lena Lidfors & Anna Hessle (HMH-Skara)