“The design of the environment plays a large role for the quality of life of the animal.”
Last week I started a new course named ‘Animal environment, welfare and housing’. I have been looking much forward to this course for a long time – for more than a year, to be precise! How come? Well, animal production systems is one of my biggest passions within animal science. The design of the environment plays a large role for the quality of life of the animal. Therefore I want to learn every little detail there is to know about how to create the best housing for animals. However, last year this course turned out to be… in Swedish. And as you might have read, my Swedish skills are not that impressive (yet!). So I was utterly disappointed about not being able to take the course of my favourite interest. Until I heard the amazing news that the course would be reconstructed and given in English for the first time spring 2017! It was a long wait, but now it is finally happening: Animal environment, welfare and housing has begun.
How badly designed stalls impact wellbeing, health and antibiotics
usage in dairy cows. Image from the presentation of Stefan Gunnarsson.
The first lecture was an introduction to the course. Besides hearing about the structure, objectives and planning it is also quite common at SLU that the course participants introduce themselves briefly. Soon we found out that many of us are international and that we have people with all sorts of backgrounds attending, such as veterinarians and agricultural engineers. Which also gives an idea of the interdisciplinarity of this course; to me it seems to be about the relations between building function, animal health and animal welfare. A good example of this was presented during one of the lectures this week. Cows have the need to lay down and ruminate. If the stalls are badly designed this will affect the behaviour, welfare, health and production of the cow (see the diagram above). This is not bad for the cow only, but also leads to reduced farm income and ultimately to increased resistance to antibiotics in society. It may sound obvious, but you would be surprised to see how many systems exist that are not optimal for cows to lay down.
In the coming weeks I will keep you posted about the highlights of the course. With several excursions and projects ahead I am sure there will be many to come! If you would like to have more information about the course, please have a look at the SLU course page. Still have questions? Feel free to ask them below 🙂