Of the roughly 22,000 veterinary surgeons currently practicing in Germany, including around 12,000 practice owners and 10,000 salaried vets, only around 3,500 are still involved in the care of agricultural livestock.
“Veterinary resources are becoming increasingly scarce, especially in rural areas, because there is a lack of young talent in curative care,” explains Heiko Farber, Managing Director of the Bundesverband Praktizierender Tierärzte (bpt, German Association of Practicing Veterinary Surgeons).
Besides the desire for proximity to an urban setting and the work/life balance, the working conditions that are still difficult in part as well as insufficient selection processes for veterinary medicine students are also playing a role among the younger generation. Ever increasing statutory requirements and the related bureaucracy are additionally exacerbating the situation.
National implementation of the EU Veterinary Medicinal Products Regulation and the latest (first) amendment of the German Veterinary Medicinal Products Act established additional reporting obligations and a further reduction of necessary antibiotic treatments. Over the past 10 years, antibiotic use has decreased by 60% in the EU.
“All of this is a major dilemma, because not only the partially fruitless search for salaried veterinary surgeons is causing problems. The situation is additionally being exacerbated by the age structure in the practices, with succession plans that are no longer achievable. If this situation remains, it will very soon become impossible to guarantee nationwide veterinary care any longer,” says Farber. “But if sick or injured animals can no longer be provided with adequate treatment due to a shortage of vets, that is clearly relevant to animal protection.”
In the opinion of the veterinary profession, the easing of framework conditions for the immigration of skilled workers, as proposed by the German Federal Government in its skilled workers strategy, is not sufficient by itself to counteract this trend, which poses a risk to animal protection in Germany, says Farber. What is required instead is the speedy relaxation of the German Working Time Act to enable more flexible deployment of the ever-growing group of salaried veterinary surgeons as well as a significant reduction in bureaucracy so that the increasingly scant working time that is available can actually be used for working on animals and therefore for animal health.
In parallel with the regulatory processes, technical innovations can also ensure husbandry conditions that are appropriate to the respective species, thus improving animal protection, notes Farber.
Innovation is a matter very close to Heiko Färber’s heart: “The Animal Welfare Awards presented by the bpt together with DLG serve precisely this purpose. Those of the new developments/innovations presented at EuroTier that make a particular contribution to animal welfare and animal health are selected for this.
“With these impressive innovations, we can achieve benefits for the animals far more quickly than with regulations. For me, this is One Health-work in action,” says Färber.
During EuroTier 2022 in Hannover, Germany, the following companies were recognized for their innovation and value to the European livestock industry:
SoundTalks, Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica GmbH. SoundTalks is designed to detect the initial signs of respiratory tract diseases earlier than the farmer is able to achieve by checking his livestock twice a day as usual. If deviations occur, the farmer is immediately alerted and can decide on the further procedure in consultation with his farm vet if necessary. The system is therefore used for early detection and prevention, and can prevent outbreaks of disease and thus also reduce the use of antibiotics, since the farmer is able to take action earlier.
Stimulor StressLess - wave-based milking, Siliconform Vertriebs GmbH & Co. Teats of different sizes can be milked with one single teat cup liner thanks to the integrated, adaptive lip that responds to a difference in pressure and allows air to flow in at precisely the right time. This regulates the head vacuum so that it remains in a physiological range and the teats are not constricted. This means that the cow’s sensitive teat tissue is handled gently, thereby increasing well-being during the milking process. The Stimulor StressLess prevents injuries and therefore makes a significant contribution to increased animal welfare and improved animal health.
The Dreamstall, Cowhouse International B.V. The Dreamstall cubicle concept enables the cows to exercise their natural behavior when lying down, lying and getting up in the cubicles without being restricted by a neck tube and the conventionally used dividing bars. The design, which is equally as simple as it is innovative, allows the cows to use the entire lying area undisturbed and guides them into the appropriate position when lying down and getting up. The Dreamstall is an innovation that fosters the exercise of the cows’ species-typical modes of behavior and therefore contributes