Statistics on the use of animals in research, testing and teaching statistics are released

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has released its 2020 annual statistics on the number of animals used in research, testing and teaching (RTT) in New Zealand. Along with its detailed report, it has released an easy-to-read infographic.

The Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART) has commended the ministry for the openness, comprehensiveness and clarity of its 2020 statistics.

The yearly release of this report aligns well with the purposes of the Openness Agreement on Animal Research and Teaching in New Zealand, launched by ANZCCART in July 2021, said Professor Pat Cragg, chair of the council’s New Zealand board. Continue reading

Feedback sought on draft code of welfare for dairy cattle

The National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (NAWAC), the independent ministerial advisory committee on animal welfare, is calling for feedback on a new draft code of welfare for dairy cattle.

NAWAC has reviewed the existing code of welfare for dairy cattle and is consulting on updated minimum standards and recommendations for best practice.

The objective is to lift the codes to address changes in good practice, available technology and science, and the explicit recognition of sentience in the Animal Welfare Act. It is also consulting on recommendations for regulations. Continue reading

Pugging and pragmatism – Feds welcome winter grazing proposals but SAFE blasts continuance of “mud farming”

A government announcement on intensive winter grazing regulations  was denounced by the SAFE animal rights group in a statement headed Mud farming continues in the South Island.

Greenpeace struck a similar condemnatory note with a statement headed Backdown on winter grazing rules ‘delaying the inevitable’.  

Greenpeace said winter grazing churns paddocks to deep mud because intensive numbers of stock are confined to small feeding areas for longer than the soil and water can sustain. This mud washes into drains, streams and rivers, posing a risk to human health and the environment.

The Government proposals would change regulations initially designed to give effect to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management. These changes include scrapping rules to prevent pugging damage from intensive winter grazing and instead recommending farmers take ‘reasonably practicable’ steps to reduce pugging.

Federated Farmers, on the other hand, headed their press statement Pragmatism finally prevails on winter grazing.

The Government’s press statement was much more in harmony with the feds’ statement than the two others.  It was headed Proposed intensive winter grazing regulations updates are more practical for farmers and began: Continue reading

Report highlights intensive winter grazing efforts by farm organisations

******

A new report shows that farmers and regional councils are working together to improve practices with help from industry organisations such as B+LNZ.

******

The Government put the implementation of the intensive winter grazing (IWG) rules on hold in March  after hearing significant concerns from industry on the practicality and workability of the rules.  The pause was conditional on increased monitoring and performance to ensure measurable improvements in relation to practice change and environmental outcomes, including documented plans.

Regional councils have recently released a report on how well farmers are adopting best management practice for these activities.

The report shows that efforts have been ramped up across the country. It confirms that farmers and councils are working together to improve their methods of winter grazing with help from industry organisations such as B+LNZ and DairyNZ. Continue reading

Science organisations pledge openness in animal research and teaching in New Zealand

Twenty-one universities, institutes of technology, non-profit organisations, Crown Research Institutes, government organisations, umbrella bodies, research funding organisations and learned societies have committed to communicate openly about animal use.

New Zealand will be the first country outside Europe with an animal research openness agreement, launched this week in Queenstown at the Australian and New Zealand Council for the Care of Animals in Research and Teaching (ANZCCART) 2021 conference.

New Zealand has long been committed to maintaining and improving high standards of animal welfare, as well as undertaking world-leading research and teaching using animals, controlled under the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

The scientific community in New Zealand recognises the importance of demonstrating and promoting values that contribute to these animal welfare standards.

The objective of the Openness Agreement on Animal Research and Teaching in New Zealand is to ensure that the public are well informed about animal research (including the benefits, harms, and limitations).

Topics such as the role animal research plays in the process of scientific discovery, how research is regulated in New Zealand, and what researchers and animal care staff do to promote positive animal welfare should be addressed.

Communication should be realistic about the ethical considerations involved (including that of the 3Rs of Replacement, Reduction and Refinement). Research is done that aims to benefit humans, animals, and the environment. Continue reading

Animals used in research relating to health and welfare have been successfully rehomed

Five piglets that were part of AgResearch’s work to test a form of upgraded facilities, over a period of three-and-a-half weeks indoors at the institute’s Grasslands campus in Palmerston North were  identified as being suitable for rehoming on local farmlets.

“All of the research we do with animals is of the highest ethical standards and aimed at making progress for people and animals themselves. But depending on the nature of the research, rehoming of the animals is not always practical,” says AgResearch veterinarian and animal welfare officer Susan Doohan.

“In this case, it was a very positive thing to see happen for the piglets and for all of the researchers and staff involved. Seeing the piglets play, explore and interact in their new homes has given us all a lot of enjoyment. It is certainly something we want to do more of where the opportunities for rehoming research animals are identified.”

All five piglets were confirmed as suitable for rehoming based on several factors including temperament, health, transition to meal feeding, and sociability with other piglets. They were transferred to their new homes in March 2021 after potential new owners were identified in the local area by AgResearch staff.

Checking was done in advance around the experience of the potential new owners and housing arrangements for the piglets, as well as information sharing about animal use in science.

“We also made sure to provide the new owners with a supply of feed for the initial rehoming period, that was consistent with what the piglets were receiving during the research, to ease their transition,” Susan says.

One of the new piglet owners says:

“The three boys we rehomed settled in very well and now have adopted brothers from another piggery.

“They have all been weaned off their initial milk feeds and are growing like the proverbial mushrooms. They are very quiet, friendly fellows and easy to look after. We would have no hesitation in rehoming animals from AgResearch in future.”

  • More information about AgResearch’s research with animals and ethics processes can be found here.

Source: AgResearch

Machine learning models are helping gain insights into cows’ sleeping needs

Dairy cows, just like humans, need their sleep but AgResearch scientists have had to develop new technologies to better understand the quality of shut-eye the animals are getting.

Research into the sleep of cows is seen by researchers as one way of assessing their welfare, which is important to farmers and to respond to the growing expectations of global dairy consumers.

Although little is known about the sleep needs of cows, scientists do know sleep is an essential physiological function for all animals and plays an important part in physical and mental health.

The challenge has been that measuring and distinguishing between the important stages of sleep in dairy cows is impractical with the animals housed in the usual farm environments, says AgResearch animal behaviour and welfare science team leader Dr Cheryl O’Connor.

“Between AgResearch and Scotland’s Rural College in Edinburgh, including joint PhD student Laura Hunter, we used sensor devices placed on the cows to take measurements during their sleep such as their neck muscle activity and heart rates, to compare with the gold standard EEG (electroencephalogram) for brain activity,” Dr O’Connor says.

“We took this muscle and heart rate data from six cows in both housed and pasture systems, and applied machine learning (a branch of Artificial Intelligence) models to make predictions about what the muscle and heart rate data means for the cows’ different sleep stages.

“The result was that machine learning models were able to accurately predict sleep stages from the measures that were taken, and the accuracy was in a similar range to that for human computer models.”

Now that this method appears to be a valid way of measuring and predicting the sleep stages of cows at a small scale, researchers want to apply it to a much larger number of animals to validate the use of these methods.

“We think the insights we can get from this could potentially tell us more about overall animal welfare,” Dr O’Connor says.

“From that we may be able to build further on the research. We will be aiming to share what we learn with farmers and the wider industry, so they can potentially build that knowledge into what happens on farms to provide the best life we can for our cows.”

The recently published research can be viewed in full at: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-90416-y

Source:  AgResearch

MPI introduces new requirements for livestock exports after independent review

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has introduced new requirements for the safe transport of livestock by sea.

The new rules follow an independent review into the animal welfare assurances MPI receives from exporters, led by Mike Heron QC and supported by Rear Admiral Tony Parr (retired).

The review was launched after the tragic loss of Gulf Livestock 1 in early September.

MPI Director-General Ray Smith says the ministry will introduce several additional requirements for the export of livestock until the incoming government can make decisions about a wider policy review of the trade. Continue reading

New tool to measure the welfare of NZ dairy cows

Veterinary researchers at Massey University have created a way to assess the welfare of dairy cows within a day.

New Zealand has no industry-recognised protocol to assess dairy cow wellbeing, but the researchers say protocols tailored to NZ dairy farms are ‘essential’.

Further testing is needed, but the team say this protocol could form the basis of a standardised process for monitoring the health of the country’s dairy farms. Continue reading

National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee posts annual report on its work for animals in 2019

Improved codes of animal welfare and a bigger focus on sentience are among the operational highlights of the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee, which has published its annual report for 2019.

NAWAC is an independent committee formed to give advice on animal welfare to the Minister of Agriculture.

The committee was pleased to recommend an amendment to the dairy cattle code of welfare in June 2019, which addresses dairy cattle welfare in off-pasture management systems. The amended code was issued 31 October 2019. NAWAC looks forward to the introduction of further minimum standards, which will set more requirements for dairy cattle being held off-pasture for more than 150 days in a 365-day period. Continue reading