Decision tools for livestock farmers

Livestock farmers do not only engage in the care for healthy animals. Animals can get ill, injured or have reduced survival chances for other reasons. In those cases, the farmer is also the one to make decisions about euthanasia of animals.

European law1 provides farmers the possibility to kill their own animals when needed and under strict conditions. Euthanasia of animals prevents unnecessary suffering and is therefore important for animal welfare on the farm. 

The decision about euthanasia demands great responsibility and is not an easy one

The pig sector felt the need for a transparent and clear decision tool that can be used to make responsible decisions about on farm euthanasia of pigs. This is important for both animal welfare and the welfare of the persons involved, since uncertainties and doubts about survival chances of the animals are taken away.

Development of the first decision tools for piglets and pigs (English and other languages) 

In 2017 the first decision tool for piglets was published, followed by a decision tool for pigs in 2020. These were developed with the involvement of the Royal Dutch Society for Veterinary Medice (KNMvD), experts of both the faculty of Veterinary Medicine (Utrecht University) and Wageningen University & Research, the Dutch pig farmers organization POV and in an earlier stage the Dutch farmers organization ZLTO. Pig veterinarians and sector parties gave advise during the development.

Followed by: decision tools for rabbits and sheep (Dutch)

The publication of decision tools for rabbits and sheep (see below), were the result of an effort to fuse scientific research, consultations of sector parties and field visits. This research was conducted by Wageningen Livestock Research in collaboration with CenSAS. This effort revealed how this topic of making end of life decisions on livestock farms raises various questions. For example, what is permitted on farm by the farmer and what is not? The report "Responsible handling of animals in need of care and euthanasia on farm" addresses these questions (language: dutch).  

In addition to content, CenSAS considers this collaborative effort and publication as another step forward to open up a conversation about this often considered loaded subject. A topic that deserves attention. 

Usage of the decision tools

Livestock farmers can use the decision tools for a variety of purposes, for example: training of new employees, reflecting on their own euthanasia decision-making and as a guide during conversations with a veterinarian. 

More information about the decision tool for piglets and the nitrogen method may be found at the website of Anoxia BV more information.   

1 Council Regulation (EC) nr. 1099/2009 of 24 September 2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing. The full text can be found here.