The National Organic Program (NOP) is the regulatory program administered by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services agency that implements the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, subsequently amended and its related regulations.

In addition to other activities, AMS manages the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances used on certified organic premises, which it recently amended.  See 83 FR 66559-01, 2018 WL 6788997 (F.R.) Dec, 27, 2018.

As published, the rule, effective on January 28, 2019:

changes the use restrictions for seventeen substances allowed for organic production or handling on the National List. This rule also adds sixteen new substances on the National List to be allowed in organic production or handling. In addition, this final rule lists the botanical pesticide, rotenone, as a prohibited substance in organic crop production. This final rule removes ivermectin as an allowed parasiticide for use in organic livestock production and amends our regulations to allow the use of parasiticides in fiber bearing animals. Finally, this rule inserts corrections of instructions and regulation text as listed in the proposed rule.

Three new substances, hypochlorous acid, magnesium oxide, and squid byproducts have been added as synthetic substances allowed for use in organic crop production.  7 CFR § 205.601

Specifically, as of the effective date:

  • Hypochlorous acid will be allowed for use as an algicide, disinfectant, and sanitizer.
  • Magnesium oxide will be allowed for use in controlling the viscosity of a clay suspension agent for humates.
  • Social soil testing an alternative verifiable methods, such as tissue testing when approved by the certifying agent, will be the only method for demonstrating a soil micronutrient deficiency.
  • Squid byproducts rom food waste processing only will be an allowed substance for use in organic crop production.
  • Rotenone will be added as a nonsynthetic substances prohibited for use in organic crop production.
  • Activated charcoal, calcium borogluconate, calcium propionate, hypochlorous acid, kaolin pectin, mineral oil, nutritive supplements—injectable vitamins, trace minerals and electrolytes, propylene glycol, acidified sodium chlorite, and zinc sulfate will be permitted as synthetic substances allowed for use in organic livestock production.

Activated charcoal and the other permitted substances in the last bullet point are important medical tools that provide medical relief to animals raised for food.

The rule also revises the list of approved and prohibited treatments for parasite control in food animals and fur-bearing animals.

The regulations permit the use of some parasiticides that can be used in organic livestock production when the following conditions exist:

(1) Emergency treatment for dairy and breeder stock only when preventive measures have failed; (2) a parasiticide withdrawal period before milk or milk products from treated animals can be sold as organic; and (3) a prohibition on use in breeder stock during the last third of gestation or during lactation if progeny will be sold as organic.

Ivermectin, a highly effective parasiticide, has been removed from permitted use in organic livestock production.

The use of some medications, such as xylazine—a historically safe and effective medication for sedation, anesthesia, muscle relaxation, and analgesia in animals, has been restricted to use “by or on the lawful written or oral order of a licensed veterinarian, in full compliance with the AMDUCA and 21 CFR part 530 of the Food and Drug Administration regulations. Also, for use under 7 CFR part 205, paragraph (a)(30 also includes the following requirements:

(i) Use by or on the lawful written order of a licensed veterinarian;

(ii) A meat withdrawal period of at least 8 days after administering to livestock intended for slaughter; and a milk discard period of at least 4 days after administering to dairy animals.

Zinc sulfate, an effective treatment for use as a footbath for control of foot rot in livestock, primarily dairy cattle, sheep and goats, will be permitted.

In summary, animals raised under the organic certification will largely benefit by the amendments to USDA’s national list of allowed and prohibited substances.

Typically, animal diseases have a seasonal presence.  For example, avian influenza, like other influenza viruses prefer cold damp conditions.  On the other hand, viruses transmitted by mosquitoes (arboviruses), including Equine Encephalitis virus and West Nile virus , are diagnosed when the mosquito population has peaked, often in in mid-late summer and early fall.

In addition to the seasonal prevalence of arboviruses in the United States, USDA APHIS has been tracking and reporting on an outbreak of Virulent Newcastle Disease (vND) in California, first identified in May 18, 2018.

USDA has confirmed 156 cases of vND in California, 102 in San Bernardino County, 22 in Riverside County, 31 in Los Angeles County and 1 in Ventura County.

To date the virus has been confirmed predominately in backyard exhibition chickens.  Backyard mixed species birds, backyard hobby turkeys and one live bird market have also been infected.  Virus has not been identified in commercial flocks to date, and state and federal animal health officials are emphasizing the importance of implementing enhances biosecurity practices to prevent additional transmission to other premises.  The last confirmed case was reported on October 4, 2018.

Across the globe, African Swine Fever, a highly contagious hemorrhagic disease of wild and domestic suids, has been spreading in Asia and across Europe.

As reported by USDA, China first reported the outbreak on August 3, 2018, “on a domestic swine farm in Shenyang, Liaoning Province with an onset date of August 1.”  This disease, like other highly pathogenic diseases of livestock and poultry are reportable to the World Animal Health Organization (“OIE”).

In addition to China, since the beginning of 2018, ASF has been reported in the following countries: Hungary, Romania, Moldova, Poland, Czech Repulic, Belgium, Russia, Latvia, Poland, Ukraine and Chad, as reported by OIE.

USDA reported that it met with the swine industry on September 5, 2018 “to discuss protections USDA has in place to prevent the introduction of African Swine Fever (ASF) to the United States as well as activities to enhance those protections.”

USDA provided a summary of recommended enhancement activities-“USDA industry prevention points.

To prevent the introduction of this virus to the United States, USDA has: scheduled biweekly calls for updates and discussion; will review state authorized waste feeding of swine to determine whether inspection of licensed facilities should be enhanced; reviewed the importation of potentially infected meat, casing, and feed; asked Custom and Border Protection to “target its inspections of passengers and cargo coming from ASF positive regions.”

According to a report by Rabobank, African Swine Fever Shifts Global Protein Picture,

These disruptions could open export opportunities for U.S., Canadian and Brazilian pork producers, including initial panic buying. However, Rabobank explained, the potential spread of the disease throughout Asia and/or Europe also poses a great risk to North American and South American producers.

Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson introduced a bill (A4298) that would amend “animal cruelty offenses and penalties concerning animal abandonment and failure to report injuring certain animals with a motor vehicle; increases civil penalties for certain other animal cruelty offenses.”  Like so many bills in New Jersey related to animal issues, including another misguided, S2820 to be discussed later, A4298 would subject many livestock owners, including horse owners, to liability under the law, even though their animals are properly cared for.  Many of these proposed amendments are not consistent with the requirements in the “Humane Treatment of Domestic Livestock,” (the “Humane Standards”), N.J.A.C. §§2:8-1.1 et seq. which the legislature mandated for “domestic livestock,” defined as “cattle, horses, donkeys, swine, sheep, goats, rabbits, poultry, fowl, and any other domesticated animal deemed by the State Board of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, to be domestic livestock for such purposes.”  N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1 (c).

The Humane Standards provide for feeding, watering, keeping, marketing and sale, and care and treatment of livestock, based on animal science and veterinary medicine.  There is a rebuttable presumption that “the raising, keeping, care, treatment, marketing, and sale of domestic livestock in accordance with the standards . . . shall not constitute a violation of any provision of this title involving alleged cruelty to, or inhumane care or treatment of, domestic livestock.”  N.J.S.A. 4:22-16.1 (b)(1).  However, when both the statute and regulations were enacted, the Humane Standards were consistent with the statutory provisions, including the definition and provisions related to “necessary care.”  If the statutory provisions of “necessary care” require care inconsistent with and in excess of those required by the Humane Standards (which would occur if A4298 became law), the rebuttable presumption may not be applicable.

This issue is compounded by three major factors:

  1. Those enforcing animal cruelty statutes often believe (erroneously) that any time an animal is injured or becomes sick, the owner or caretaker is at fault and liable under the animal cruelty statutes;
  2. Those enforcing animal cruelty statutes are often inadequately trained in animal care, particularly care involving livestock;
  3. Animal activist groups, opposed to animal use by humans, increasingly target law makers and enforcers, providing them with biased, non-scientifically sound, misleading and inaccurate information and proposed statutory language intended to ban the breeding, sale, and use of animals.

Concerns about A4298 relate largely to the amendments of the definition of “necessary care” described below:

The bill would amend the definition of “necessary care” to provide for “care sufficient to preserve the health and well-being of an animal . . . including:

(2)          open or adequate access to drinkable water of an appropriate temperature* in sufficient quantity and quality to satisfy the animal’s needs;

(3)          access to adequate protection from the weather, including access to an enclosed non-hazardous structure sufficient to protect the animal from the weather that has adequate bedding to protect against cold and dampness, and adequate protection from extreme or excessive sunlight and from overexposure to the sun, heat and other weather conditions;

(4)          veterinary care deemed necessary by a reasonably prudent person to prevent or relieve injury, neglect or disease, alleviate suffering, and maintain health; and

(5)          reasonable access to a clean and adequate exercise area.

Taken one by one, here are the concerns:

  1. What does “open” access to drinkable water mean?

Livestock, including horses, must be provided “daily access to water in sufficient quantity and quality to satisfy the animal’s physiologic needs as evidenced by the animal’s hydration status.”  N.J.A.C. 2:8-2.3.  However, animals do not require access to water 24/7, if that is what the definition of “open” access to water means.

  1. The requirement to provide water “of an appropriate temperature” is unnecessary and can lead to unfounded charges of animal cruelty.

The Humane Standards already require the provision of water of sufficient quality which “refers to the acceptability of water sources for animal consumption with response to the presence of contaminants, accessibility and quantity.  Acceptable water quality means that the water is provided in ways that minimize contamination by urine, feces and other material but is accessible to the animals.  It may be provided from natural sources or manmade containers and must be sufficient quantities to prevent dehydration.  Signs of dehydration include sunken eyes, increased capillary refill time of the gums, and/or skin that tents when pinched.  Human standards for potability are not required but there should not be contaminants present in amounts that discourage the animals from drinking adequate amounts.”  N.J.A.C. 2:8-1.2.

Adding a requirement related to the temperature of the water is unnecessary, vague and ambiguous.  Prior attempts to check water temperature have placed livestock in harm’s way.  Agents or officers of the NJSPCA used to attend 4-H fairs regularly and, going livestock pen to livestock pen, would dip their hands in water buckets to “test” the temperature.  Not only was this a completely unscientific method to measure the adequacy of hydration of animals, it presented a huge biosecurity risk through the intentional introduction of potential pathogens from bucket to bucket.

  1. The bill would also require “access to an enclosed non-hazardous structure sufficient to protect the animal from the weather that has adequate bedding to protect against cold and dampness,” a provision that is inconsistent with the Humane Standards.

Each species-based section of the Humane Standards includes provisions relating to housing requirements, which expressly does not require housing in a “non-hazardous structure.”  It does require:

(a) The animal’s environment must provide relief from the elements, such as excessive wind, excessive temperature and excessive precipitation, that result in hyperthermia or hypothermia detrimental to the animal’s health.

(b) Relief under (a) above can be accomplished with natural features of the environment including, but not limited to, trees, land windbreaks, overhangs, or other natural weather barriers or constructed shelters.  N.J.A.C. 2:8-2.4.

  1. The bill would also require animal owners to provide veterinary care deemed necessary by a reasonably prudent person to prevent or relieve injury, neglect or disease, alleviate suffering, and maintain health.

Such provisions could expose any animal owner to liability if they failed to prevent diseases for which vaccines or other preventive treatments are available, but were not administered.  This is not consistent with the basic tenors of veterinary medicine, which requires consideration of the needs of each animal, based on their risk exposure.  The American Animal Hospital Association’s Canine Vaccination Guidelines, for example, states:

Not all dogs need every vaccine. Your veterinarian will ask you questions about your dog’s lifestyle, environment, and travel to help tailor the perfect vaccination plan for him. AAHA’s Lifestyle-Based Vaccine Calculator uses factors such as whether your dog visits dog parks, groomers, competes in dog shows, swims in freshwater lakes, or lives on converted farmland to help you and your veterinarian develop your dog’s individualized vaccination plan.

There are “core” and “noncore” vaccines. Vaccinations are designated as either core, meaning they are recommended for every dog, or noncore, which means they are recommended for dogs at risk for contracting a specific disease. However, your veterinarian may reclassify a “noncore” vaccine as “core” depending on your dog’s age, lifestyle, and where you live—for instance, in a region like New England where Lyme disease is prevalent, that vaccine may be considered “core.”

  1. The bill would also require reasonable access to a clean and adequate exercise area.

This is inconsistent with provisions in the Humane Standards that permits housing in caged systems, stabling of horses, etc.

Significant amendments to A4298 and sister bill S2159 are required to allow for the continued existence of animal agriculture and other animal businesses in the State of New Jersey.

 

*Underlined text are proposed amendments.

 

The impact of USDA’s newly adopted final rule to certain exhibitors of farm animals remains unclear.

A positive result of the rule is the definition of “domesticated farm-type animals.”  Farm-type animals are defined as “animals that have historically been kept and raised on farms in the United States.”  Except for the use of the term “domesticated” this definition should be adopted by states to insure that livestock and poultry remain regulated by state and local laws even if owned as “pets” or for “companionship.”

However, the term “domesticated” should be replaced by “domestic,” since courts have held that certain dangerous and exotic animals can be “domesticated” based on the case-specific facts.  See City of Rolling Meadows v. Kyle, 494 N.E.2d 766 (Ill. App. Ct. 1986) (reversing holding that owners monkey was not a domesticated house pet); Turudic v. Stephens, 31 P.3d 465, 471 (Or. Ct. App. 2001) (concluding that “although the cougar may be more exotic than goldfish or hamsters, they are, nevertheless, indisputably family pets.”).  Unfortunately the term “domesticated” instead of “domestic” is used in existing and the amended rule.

Certain exhibitors of ‘domesticated farm-type animals’ are exempt from licensure, including: (1) those who “have a de minimis size of business based on the number of animals maintained, capability of providing adequate care and treatment of such animals, and public oversight . . .”; (2) “country fairs, livestock shows, rodeos, field trials, coursing events . . . and any other fairs or exhibitions intended to advance agricultural arts and sciences, as may be determined by the Secretary”; and (3) owners of “livestock or poultry used or intended for use as food or fiber, or livestock or poultry used or intended for use for improving animal nutrition, breeding, management, or production efficiency, or for improving the quality of food or fiber.”

The amendments exclude from licensure “[a]ny person who maintains a total of eight or fewer pet animals as defined in part 1 of this subchapter, small exotic or wild mammals (such as hedgehogs, degus, spiny mice, prairie dogs, flying squirrels, jerboas, domesticated ferrets, chinchillas, and gerbils), and/or domesticated farm-type animals (such as cows, goats, pigs, sheep, llamas, and alpacas) for exhibition, and is not otherwise required to obtain a license.”

For those who maintain more than eight domesticated farm-type animals, they can also be exempt from licensure if: the animals are used or intended for use as food or fiber; for improving animal nutrition, breeding, management, or production efficiency; or for improving the quality of food or fiber,  even if those animals are exhibited.  However, that was not the holding in In re: Daniel J. Hill and Montrose Orchards, Inc., AWA Docket No. 06-0006, Chief ALJ Hillson (USDA April 18, 2007).

In this case, a Complaint was issued on January 13, 2006, by Kevin Shea, Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture to “Respondents, Daniel J. Hill and Montrose Orchard, Inc., for operating as exhibitors under the Animal Welfare Act without obtaining the requisite license.”

The Findings of Fact, included, in relevant part:

Respondents operate a business which offers the public an opportunity to purchase apples, blueberries, Christmas trees, asparagus, pumpkins and other products. Most products are sold in the Orchard’s gift shop, and some products are also offered to the public on a self-pick basis.

Respondents display to the public a number of animals including, at various times, a pig, a cow, English fallow deer, Barbados sheep and goats. These animals were displayed in large pens. There were signs directing the public to these pens.  There were signs on some of the pens identifying the animal(s) inside.  There were food dispensing machines where members of the public could insert some money and buy food to feed the animals, and a hand washing station near the pens available for public use.

The Court rejected Respondents’ argument that it was exempt from licensure because it made less than $500 from its animal operations.  It also rejected the argument that Respondents were exempt from licensure because “the animals on display at Montrose Orchards were ultimately raised for food.”

Instead the Court held,

Respondents did operate as an exhibitor under the Animal Welfare Act.  I find that Respondents’ operations were in interstate commerce or at least affected commerce, and that the display of animals as part of an inducement to visit a commercial operation constituted the charging of compensation.  I find that the exemption for those who make less than $500 from animal operations applies to dealers, and is inapplicable to Respondents.  I find that while the animals on display at Montrose Orchards were ultimately raised for food, the fact that they were on display for extended periods of time still requires an exhibitor’s license. Finally, I impose a civil penalty of $1,000 against Respondents jointly.

Whether and to the extent that similar “exhibitors” would be considered exempt pursuant to the newly adopted rules, remains to be seen.

Perhaps further clarity from USDA-APHIS would be instructive.

It looks like Animal Agriculture Alliance had another stellar stakeholder summit held on May 3-4 in Arlington, Va.

As reported on its website

The future of food, consumer choice, sustainability and the connection farmers and ranchers have with consumers were all topics of discussion on the first day of the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s 2018 Stakeholders Summit, themed “Protect Your Roots,” at the Renaissance Capital View Hotel in Arlington, Va.

“The conversations are changing about food to include agriculture and the message of farmers,” said Tyne Morgan, host of U.S. Farm Report and Summit moderator. “There are a lot of companies taking notice of the positive side of agriculture and they are starting to tell that story too.”

Speakers explored the increasing importance of food labels to consumers, trends in the food industry, and the future of animal agriculture, a topic commonly discussed amongst farmers and supporting industries who wonder if sufficient numbers from younger generations will take on the huge task of feeding the nation and the world, while providing for the humane care of their stock.

Other speakers presented scientific advances in the field that benefit animals and the environment, but may not always address consumer misconceptions about agricultural practices.  The agriculture community recognizes the increasing importance of educating consumers about the truth and dispelling the myths relating to animal agriculture, broadcasted by animal rights organizations .

The Animal Agriculture Alliance, “an industry-united, nonprofit organization that helps bridge the communication gap between farm and fork” brings these issues front and center on its website. Commonly misunderstood issues about Animal Care, Antibiotics, and Sustainability are discussed along with a number of resources.

The Alliance drafted comprehensive graphics depicting the interactions between animal rights activist groups, who commonly work together to mislead the public and animal welfare-related issues.

Animal Rights Activist Web by Animal Agriculture Alliance

Radical activist organizations are leading the fight to grant animals the same legal rights as humans and eliminate the consumption of food and all other products derived from animals. The ideology of the animal rights movement- that animals are not ours to own, enjoy, or use in any way- is a direct assault on farmers and pet owners. Activists often hide their true agenda in order to gain the support of unknowing pet lovers. Here, you will find current updates from the world of animal rights. The Alliance monitors the activities of these activist groups and seeks to proactively engage in the same areas they target to correct misinformation and tell the true story of agriculture.

Farmers and ranchers have a lot on their plates.  In addition to raising and caring for the animals that feed the world, they must learn how to address attacks by animal rights organizations intent on their demise, and more importantly learn to connect with consumers who have been mislead by activists.

Organizations like the Animal Agriculture Alliance, and others like Protect the Harvest, should be commended for work they do to dispel those myths.

On October 12, 2017 Nestlé USA announced that by 2024 they would

“strive to source all of the broiler chickens we use as ingredients for our U.S. food portfolio from sources meeting a higher standard of animal welfare, building on our global Commitment on Farm Animal Welfare.”

More specifically, Nestlé has committed to sourcing from farmers who raise chicken with slower growth rates, good leg health, reduced stocking rates, and further compliance with standards approved by the Global Animal Partnership (GAP), a non-profit “registered as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and brings together a diverse group with the common goal of improving farm animal farm animal welfare standards around the world.”

Nestlé acknowledges that this commitment is “complex,” “require[s] investment and time, and the transition over the next seven years must be done in a sustainable and cost-effective way.”

There are six different levels or steps in GAP standards, that increasingly require significant investments by farmers who must modify their existing housing facilities and decrease the number of animals that can be raised in the existing space.

One of the concerns about laws that require changes to husbandry standards for farm animals are the related costs.  For example, California’s 2008 ballot initiative, Prevention of Farmed Animal Cruelty Act (“Prop 2”), funded in large part by the Human Society of the United States, requires egg-laying hens, veal calves and hogs to have sufficient room to lie down, stand up, fully extend their limbs, and turn around freely in their enclosures.

Despite the passage of Prop 2, HSUS is once again leading the effort to require additional changes to the law in California.  The recently proposed initiative would prohibit all sales of veal or pork in California unless produced in a manner that complies with California’s law.

The proposed initiative would also require that all eggs produced and sold in California must come from cage-free birds as of December 21, 2021.  The farmers in or outside of California who had modified their former housing systems to be in compliance with Prop 2 will now have to make additional significant investments in their housing systems again.  Such required continual modifications of animal housing facilities are not cost-effective nor sustainable.

Perhaps this is the point, since the goals of HSUS and many other animal rights organizations are to eliminate animal agriculture entirely.

I recently reconnected with colleagues at the annual meeting of the National Institute for Animal Agriculture in Columbus, Ohio on April 6, 2017 where a special session was held, titled “Animal Care Standards: How Laws, Commitments, & Public Perception Have Changed the Landscape.”

A special shout out to the attending former and current State Veterinarians, including Dr. Glauer-State Veterinarian Ohio (ret.), and Dr. Tony Forshey-State Veterinarian Ohio.  State Veterinarians are a state animal health officials charged with protecting the health and well-being of animals in their state.  I served as the New Jersey State Veterinarian for nearly a decade.

Also attending were presenters, including: (1) Dr. Janet Helms, National Director of American Humane; (2) Chelsea Good, J.D., VP government and industry affairs, Livestock Marketing Association; (3) Candace Croney, Ph.D., Director, Center for Animal Welfare Science, Associate Professor, animal Behavior and Wellbeing, Purdue University; (4) Judge Linda Chezem, Indiana Court of Appeals (ret.) and others representing retail, private and public organizations.

One topic discussed was how governmental and private animal care standards of care benefit animals and consumers.  There is some concern that consumers, unfamiliar with the different certifying standards available, may be confused by labeling at the point of sale.  This is compounded by the fact that most consumers are unfamiliar with animal agriculture―fewer than 2% of the US population is directly involved with animal agriculture facilities that provide food and fiber to the rest of the US population and much of the rest of the world.

One of the longest standing third-party certification program, American Humane Certified™, was established by American Humane.  This nonprofit was “f]ounded in 1877 . . . [and] is committed to ensuring the safety, welfare and well-being of animals.”

As described on its website “The American Humane Certified™ program is a voluntary third party animal welfare audit program that is rapidly setting the standards for the way that food animals are raised in the U.S.

The American Humane Certified™ Animal Welfare Standards are species-specific and grounded on solid scientific research. The standards were created with input from renowned animal science experts and veterinarians and are frequently reviewed by our Scientific Advisory Committee to reflect current research, technological advances, best practices, and humane handling methods. Our Animal Welfare Standards were built upon the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare, which require that an animal be healthy, comfortable, well-nourished, safe, able to express normal behavior, and free from unpleasant states such as pain, fear, and distress. American Humane Certified producers are audited for their compliance to the standards.”

There are numerous private and publicly available standards of care for livestock and poultry, but American Humane’s emphasis on obtainable, scientifically-sound practices and its commitment to partnering with livestock producers to provide consumers with safe, healthy, and humanely raised animals sets it apart from many others.

The challenge for livestock producers is to make sure that consumers can rely on labeling or standard certifications to insure that the animals raised are treated humanely and that the food produced is healthy and safe.

As recently reported by Stephanie Strom in the NY Times (Business Section, Oct. 21, 2016), hens housed in aviaries have been observed to suffer higher morbidity and mortality rates, compared to hens housed in cages.  As egg farmers, veterinarians  and scientists previously warned, concerns about the welfare of hens housed in aviaries results from the well-known cannibalistic behavior of hens.  That behavior historically lead to the husbandry practice known as beak trimming, a practice activists consider a “mutilation.”

As discussed previously, the husbandry and housing techniques used to protect of animals raised for food or fiber has developed over time, informed by animal scientists researching and testing different methods that provide for the health of the animals, their welfare, the safety of their caretakers, and to minimize negative impacts on the environment.

In “A Comparison of Cage and Non-Cage Systems for Housing Laying Hens,” as reported by the AVMA, there are many factors that must be considered:

contributing to the hens’ welfare, including whether hens are free to move; whether the system allows them to engage in behaviors that are normal for hens; whether they are protected from disease, injury, and predators; whether food and water are available in the appropriate amounts and type, and are of high quality; and whether the hens are handled properly.

 For example, sows, known as the “mixing vessels” of avian influenza, are often raised in enclosed structures to prevent the spread of infectious diseases from wild animals and insect vectors.  Their enclosures also protect them from exposure to parasites and protect the environment from their destructive rooting behavior and fecal contamination.  

However, similar to public concerns about hen caged housing, bans on the use of gestation stalls for sows have been enacted throughout the country.  Unfortunately, where these stalls are banned, hog farmers cannot provide updated sow housing techniques and equipment that allow sows a choice-protection in their stalls from aggressive animals or the ability to move around in the group-housing area.

 As the AVMA has repeatedly pointed out, like for hens, there are pros and cons to every type of housing for sows.  In a literature review and analysis, titled “Welfare Implications of Gestation Sow Housing” published on Nov. 19, 2015, the AVMA concluded: 

Gestation sow housing systems vary in their advantages and disadvantages regarding the welfare of the sow. When comparing housing systems for pregnant sows, making a definitive welfare judgment requires assigning weights to an array of contributing welfare indicators including, but not limited to, type, severity and incidence of injuries; behavioral and social opportunities; and exposure to parasites, disease, and harmful or aversive stimuli. As no universally accepted weighting system exists, there is no clear consensus as to which is the superior system across all situations. However, the public is generally more critical of gestation stall housing than other systems, which has led to voluntary and mandatory transition to alternative housing systems by some producers. As such there is an ongoing need to develop an array of housing systems that suit local conditions, effectively provide enhanced opportunities for the sows to move and interact socially, and avoid an unacceptable increase in negative outcomes such as injury associated with aggression or exposure to environmental hazards.

Absolute bans on husbandry and housing techniques should be carefully considered, and informed by animal scientists, veterinarians, and the farmers who know the most about the needs of their animals.

In preparation for the VFD final rule, which outlines the revised process for authorizing use of VFD drugs (animal drugs intended for use in or on animal feed and that require the supervision of a licensed veterinarian), FDA released it’s final version of its industry guidance #233 titled “Veterinary Feed Directive-Common Format Questions and Answers.”

While rejecting a suggestion that FDA require a uniform veterinary feed directive form, FDA has provided a “common VFD format [that] would help veterinarians, their clients (i.e., animal producers), and distributors (including feed mills) quickly identify relevant information on the VFD.”

In addition to providing a list of information that is required, FDA has provided a blank VFD form and several examples of completed forms, several of which are reproduced below.

Blank VFD form
Blank VFD form
Example 1 VFD form
Example 1 VFD form
Example 2 VFD form
Example 2 VFD form

Example 2 VFD form

The information that must be included pursuant to § 558.6(b)(3) on any form utilized includes:

the veterinarian’s name, address, and telephone number;

the client’s name, business or home address, and telephone number;

the premises at which the animals specified in the VFD are located;

the date of VFD issuance;

the expiration date of the VFD;

the name of the VFD drug(s);

the species and production class of animals to be fed the VFD feed;

the approximate number of animals to be fed the VFD feed by the expiration date of the

VFD;

the indication for which the VFD is issued;

the level of VFD drug in the feed and duration of use;

the withdrawal time, special instructions, and cautionary statements necessary for use of

the drug in conformance with the approval;

the number of reorders (refills) authorized, if permitted by the drug approval, conditional

approval, or index listing;

the statement: “Use of feed containing this veterinary feed directive (VFD) drug in a

manner other than as directed on the labeling (extralabel use), is not permitted.”;

an affirmation of intent for combination VFD drugs as described in § 558.6(b)(6); and

the veterinarian’s electronic or written signature.

It would be surprising if veterinarians did not use the forms suggested by FDA to insure they were providing all the information required.

Not everyone is satisfied by the increased restrictions set forth by FDA regarding antibiotics for food animals provided in feed and/or water.

A number of nonprofits filed a citizen petition under section 512(e) of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. Section 360b(e), “to request that the Commissioner of Food and Drugs withdraw approval of the use of medically important antibiotics in livestock and poultry for disease-prevention or growth-promotion purposes.”

These nonprofits want to prohibit the use of critically important antibiotics that prevent disease in food animals.  Such use is imperative to continue to protect food animals from preventable illness.

Anyone who works with livestock knows how difficult it can be to manage manure properly  from an economic, environmental and animal health standpoint (not necessarily in that order).

28,000 hogs (and their manure) were affected during Hurricane Floyd.

As reported by the NY Times:

“In the hurricane, feces and urine soaked the terrain and flowed into rivers from the overburdened waste pits the industry calls lagoons.  The storm killed more than two million turkeys, chickens and livestock in the region, and waste from the farms is expected to keep leaching into the water supply until next spring.”

That is why the announcement by BHSL about their ability “to find an economic alternative to land spreading for poultry manure produced in broiler rearing by developing the technology to use the manure as a fuel for energy generation on the farm” is so revolutionary.”

“BHSL championed the development of the new rules for on-farm combustion of poultry manure at European Commission level, in close collaboration with the UK and Irish governments, on behalf of the European poultry industry.  The resulting rules reclassified poultry manure as a valuable Animal By-Product for on-farm combustion, which meets emissions animal health and human health standards.

BHSL’s bio-feedstock energy systems enable chicken producers to safely, securely and consistently produce fuel alongside food.”

The ability of livestock producers to contain and utilize manure productively and safely is of paramount importance for animal health and environmental protection.

Other technologies have been utilized to manage manure.  For example, “[a]nimal manures from intensive livestock operations can be pelleted to improve handlings and recyclings of embodied nutrients.”

Other technologies have been utilized to manage manure.  For example, “[a]nimal manures from intensive livestock operations can be pelleted to improve handlings and recyclings of embodied nutrients.” Atsushi Hayakawa, et. al, N2O and NO emissions from an Andisol field as influenced by pelleted poultry manure, 2008.12.011.  The use of pelleted manure may effect nitrogen levels in the soil, as this report and others have identified.

Concerns about manure are not limited to poultry.  EPA regulates animal feeding operations, defined as “agricultural operations where animals are kept and raised in confined situations,” because of concerns that “[m]anure and wastewater from AFOs have the potential to contribute to pollutants such as nitrogen and phosphorus, organic matter, sediments, pathogens, hormones, and antibiotics to the environment.”  See EPA’s website.

According to the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC):

“[t]he U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 2008 finalized its regulations under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). The CAFO rule is the most comprehensive federal water-quality regulation ever put on pork producers.”

Despite the economic impact this regulation has had on livestock producers, industry associations like the NPPC are committed to continuing “to work with EPA and others to support fair, sound, and practical implementation of the final CAFO rule, including support for the development and use of effective Nutrient Management Plans (NMPs) to guide the land application of manure.”

One thing is certain, manure management will also be an integral part of animal agriculture.

Therefore, continued development of advanced scientific technologies to manage manure will help ensure that people and animals are healthy.