As the year comes to an end it's become a tradition of mine to write a note of gratitude to Big Ag for the many "gifts" they've given us all throughout the year. Gifts that we didn't really want, need or -- in some cases -- didn't even know about. Here's my top 10 for 2013. It's just a shame they didn't include a gift receipt...
At A Greener World, we’re always looking for positive solutions to help fix our food system, as well as ways to give farmers and ranchers the practical support and guidance they need to transition towards sustainable, pasture-based livestock production. Well, we have some exciting news to announce…
Farm Health Online is a powerful new website, offering free and immediate access to practical, science-based advice on positive livestock management and sustainable farming practices for cattle, sheep, poultry, and pigs, with comprehensive information on over 100 common livestock diseases, best practices on nutrition, housing, breeding and husbandry—and much more!
A SHORTAGE OF VETS
As a farming-based organization, we’re well aware that farmers and ranchers can face real challenges in moving to higher welfare, sustainable production. Perhaps one of the greatest problems they face is the lack of veterinary support affecting much of the country. This is further compounded by limited access to information on alternative approaches to livestock health management—in other words, how to keep food animals healthy and thriving without relying on routine interventions like antibiotics and pesticides.
This isn’t a new problem: A New York Times article from 2007 laments the dire shortage of food animal vets across vast swathes of rural America, not only in terms of potential impacts on the well-being of farmers and animals, but also for our nation’s food safety. It’s well know that unhealthy animals are not only less productive (and inevitably require routine drugs like antibiotics to maintain productivity), but can present a real disease risks to humans.
Since 2007, however, things have gone from bad to worse: According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, (AVMA), the number of vets working with food animals declined from 5,090 in 2007 to 4,604 in 2015. Today, just 6.8 percent of the 105,000 or so vets employed in the U.S. work primarily with food animals. You only have to look at the AVMA’s map below to see the scale of the problem. If you happen to raise food animals in any counties on this map that are shaded white, it’s likely you’ll struggle to get any veterinary support at all. But you probably don’t need us to tell you that.
To make matters even worse, few of the 6.8 percent of vets who work with food animals have the necessary training and knowledge to advise farmers and ranchers on the preventative management practices they need to minimize reliance on veterinary treatments such as antibiotics.
A GAME CHANGER
Working in partnership with the UK’s Duchy College Rural Business School, A Greener World developed Farm Health Online specifically for farmers, ranchers, advisors and veterinarians seeking practical advice and information to support high-welfare management of food animals in outdoor systems. While online advice can never replace support from a qualified vet, Farm Health Online provides the necessary tools and resources to help bridge the current knowledge gap, ensuring all farmers and ranchers can have access to information about preventative management and alternative treatments.
Farm Health Online won’t just benefit farmers and ranchers; it has widespread public health benefits, too. Our website represents a key tool in the global fight against the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Scientific research shows that routine antibiotic use on farms for disease prevention and growth promotion is leading to antibiotic resistance, and could ultimately threaten our own health and food security. Farm Health Online supports widespread transition from a “treat ‘em when sick” approach to “stop ‘em getting sick in the first place!”, ensuring these vital drugs remain effective for when we need them most!
And because the way we farm, the nutritional quality of the meat, milk and eggs produced, and the impact of farming systems on wildlife, the environment and wider society are all connected, Farm Health Online will not only help to reduce the environmental pollution associated with intensive food animal production, but will also result in healthier, better tasting meat, dairy and eggs for us all.
While Farm Health Online is currently adapted for farmers in the U.S. and continental Europe, we are expanding the disease database and other information to include new regions and languages—the first being Africa. But we urgently need more support to ensure this vital website really can help sustainable livestock producers around the world. To make a donation to support this exciting new initiative, click here!
Find out more about about Farm Health Online at www.farmhealthonline.com.