Animal Health Network Workshop, Orlando USA, June 2022

On June 5, 2022, the Animal Health and Greenhouse gas (GHG) Emissions Intensity Network (AHN) held a Workshop in Orlando, USA. The objective of the workshop was to bring together researchers from different disciplines to discuss the role of animal health and welfare in providing a positive impact on emission reductions, and to present the potential link the network is expected to have with other areas of work such as feeding and nutrition, breeding, immune response and policy. The Workshop brought together 45 researchers from a number of different countries from across the world and including Colombia, Chile, Denmark, France, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Peru, Scotland, Spain and the United States.

Şeyda Özkan (Livestock and climate change specialist at FAO and co-lead of the network) opened the Workshop by presenting the link between improved animal health and welfare and the socio-economic and environmental impacts. She also touched on a current study at FAO focusing on how animal health can be incorporated to climate policies.

There are plans to put together a COST proposal within the network. Nick Wheelhouse (Associate Professor in Microbiology at Edinburgh Napier University) presented the objectives of the EU COST Application coming October 2022. He explained what a cost action is and gathered views around what can be done and how the network can contribute to these joint efforts. There was a fruitful discussion and feedback session, especially also on the role of the network to fill the data gaps. Potential objectives are immersed in three main areas such as mitigation, adaptation, policy and stakeholder engagement.

Pol Llonch (Department of Animal Science, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona) started with his presentation entitled “Is there a link between animal welfare and GHG emissions?” He stated that the stress in animals causes energy depletion, which is not dedicated to production or growth. In that sense, reduction of stress may increase production efficiency and decrease the GHG emission intensity. In addition, he explained the ClearFarm project , which is known as a platform to control animal welfare in pig and dairy cattle farming. He mentioned that low stress-responsive cattle have lower methane emissions.

Philip Skuce (Principal Scientist at Moredun Research Institute) talked about reducing livestock GHG emissions by improving animal health from a UK policy perspective. He illustrated that ongoing research reveals a significant reduction between 10-30 percent in GHGs associated with effective and sustainable worm control in sheep and cattle. His recent report aims to give cattle and sheep farmers options for improving practices at the farm level including vaccination programs, diagnostic testing, improved biosecurity, etc. He concluded by emphasizing the need to credit farmers and agriculture for making required improvements.

Michael MacLeod (Senior researcher of Scotland’s Rural College) joined Philip Skuce’s presentation and touched on the progress made to turn policies into practice. He stated that animal health is complicated in comparison to other mitigation measures, making it a challenging task to develop concrete policies in this specific area of work. For example, it is difficult to have evidence on the extent to which different diseases contribute to the increase of GHGs emissions, also reflecting the challenges associated with relevant data.

Angela Schwarm (Associate professor in Animal Nutrition at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences) presented the relationship between methane and immune response. She explained that the low proliferative immune response may be due to the small fermentation energy available and, consequently, low enteric methane emission is produced. In addition, she presented some ideas around a review paper the network can collaboratively work on. Angela also briefly referred to the Project ViableCow focusing on the immune response and the efficiency of digestion in cows with low and high emissions.