Dan Thomson, DVM, PhD, Director of Kansas State University’s Beef Cattle Institute and Jones Professor of Production Medicine and Epidemiology at KSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine, recently returned from Paris, France, and an international animal health and welfare meeting.

Thomson chaired the OIE Beef Cattle Production and Animal Welfare committee and said the purpose of this committee was to bring people from diverse cattle production backgrounds to create one set of standards for beef cattle production and welfare to serve the needs of all countries. The committee included animal welfare experts from Uruguay, Kenya, Australia, China and Ireland as well as OIE experts.

Dan Thomson, DVM, PhD, stands in front of the 174 flags that represent the countries that are members of the OIE.

"OIE is the World organization for animal health," Thomson said in a KansasStateUniversity press release. "It represents 174 countries around the world on issues such as animal health and disease control. The OIE has decided to include animal welfare as one of its interests." He said the OIE's mission and international scope for animal health is equivalent to the World Health Organization's mission for human health.

As the OIE moves forward setting animal welfare code as part of their business, it will definitely be involved in international trade and the World Trade Organization, Thomson said. "To my knowledge, there are no other published international standards for beef cattle welfare. The group of eight of us who sat around the table in Paris came from diverse backgrounds, not only from the standpoint of the development of our country but in the way we raise beef cattle. With the unselfishness and openness of the group, it seemed effortless to produce this document with the welfare of the cattle in mind. This experience is a real honor and one of the most professionally satisfying things I've done. Animal welfare is an important part of animal health.

"My involvement is recognition of Kansas’ and U.S. beef production as international leaders in animal welfare," Thomson said. "I was fortunate to represent all the hard work that has been done in the U.S. over the last few decades."

Thomson said the draft includes guidelines and outcome assessment measurements for confined animals and cattle raised in extensive production systems. The member countries will review and comment on the document. The committee will reconvene next summer to put the finishing touches on the document before it will be put before the general assembly of the OIE for final vote to be included into code.

The OIE Beef Cattle Production and Animal Welfare Committee also includes Abass Mohamed, Kenya; Bernadette Earley, Ireland; Andrew Fischer, Australia; Stella Heurtas, Uraguay; Zoo Ling, China (unable to attend); along with OIE staff.

I recently asked Thomson some additional questions about his experience in Pariswith the OIE Beef Cattle Production and Animal Welfare Committee:

Bovine Veterinarian: Because each country has diverse cattle raising systems, can there really be one set of guidelines on welfare for the raising of cattle?

Dan Thomson: Animal welfare or well-being is animal husbandry. It is very complicated and I think there is as much diversity within countries as there is between them in how cattle are raised. Therefore, when you look at the guidelines we developed, you will see more generalities about the actual production practices and more specifics on the outcome measurements. Basically, you know your land, cattle and climate better than people outside your industry or those inside your industry from different areas. The universal variables are measurements such as body condition score, clinical signs, morbidity, mortality and performance. If you have healthy, productive cattle with good physical appearance, their well-being is probably pretty good.

 Dan Thomson, DVM, PhD proves he was in Paris!

BV: Will it be an easy or a hard sell next year to the OIE to accept these guidelines?

Thomson: The OIE initiated the project.  Most countries are wanting to get some sort of definition or boundaries by people with experience in cattle rearing than to wait for them to be developed by people not involved with beef cattle. I don't see there being many issues with this document being accepted.

BV: Will there be anything U.S.cattle veterinarians can do in the meantime?

Thomson: The U.S.cattle veterinarians do a lot already through production medicine, pain management and preventive medicine. This committee that I served on didn't invent animal husbandry with this document. U.S.beef veterinarians will be pleasantly surprised by the recommendations proposed by the OIE when it comes to beef cattle production and animal welfare.

BV: What does it mean in a global sense that KansasStateUniversitywas the one at the table representing the U.S.?

Thomson: We have a very progressive beef industry in the U.S.Our animal welfare guidelines and husbandry practices are excellent. Kansasis a unique state in that it has strong cow-calf, purebred, stocker and feedlot industries. KansasStateUniversityunderstands the importance of the beef industry to serving humanity through food production and the economic impact it has on our country. 

Thanks, Dan, for doing such a good job representing the U.S.cattle industry on this prestigious committee, and showcasing our positive, proactive cattle welfare initiatives.

Geni Wren, Editor
Bovine Veterinarian Magazine