Improving the survival rate of young farm animals: A review
The animal article of the month for March is the Invited Review: Improving neonatal survival in small ruminants: science into practice
Birth is a dangerous period for all mammals, with a greater risk of death occurring on the day of birth than on any other day of life. For young farm animals, surviving birth and the neonatal period, is an important goal for the animal and the farmer, affecting animal welfare and farm profitability, yet still an average of 15% of sheep and goat neonates do not survive. This figure has remained constant over the last 40 years, whereas research into the causes and risk factors for lamb and kid mortality has increased exponentially.
In this review we ask why this accumulation of scientific evidence has not apparently been translated into an impact on mortality rates in practice. In the review we address four possible reasons why the science may not be applied: 1) studies may have addressed causes but not provided on farm solutions; 2) the experimental studies may not address ‘real world’ condition and thus not be able to provide relevant solutions; 3) on farm mortality may be more a more complex phenomenon than can be replicated experimentally; and 4) the solutions from the scientific literature may not have been communicated effectively to achieve significant impact.
Biologically the causes of neonatal small ruminant mortality are well known, and ensuring that the young animal achieves a good intake of colostrum as early as possible after birth is pivotal in ensuring a good outcome. This provides fuel for thermoregulation, passive immunological protection and is involved in the development of attachment between the mother and neonate. However, the reasons why this might fail are many and vary between farms, thus a ‘one size fits all’ approach is not likely to achieve improved survival across all management systems. Scientific research is providing useful information on the biology underpinning neonatal survival, such as optimal birth-weights, lamb vigour and understanding the importance of sufficient colostrum intake, but the transfer of that knowledge would benefit from an improved understanding of the psychology of management change on farm. We advocate the use of scientific information in providing tailored solutions for farms, so that the now substantial body of biological information on neonate survival can be translated into real practical outcomes.
This article is freely available for one month here
Authors: C. M. Dwyer, J. Conington, F. Corbiere, I. H. Holmøy, K. Muri, R. Nowak, J. Rooke, J. Vipond and J.-M. Gautier
The animal Article of the Month is selected by the Editor-in-Chief and is freely available for one month.