Farm animals play an important part in animal research. They are used both to increase our understanding of their species (or related ones), and as models of human conditions. Much of the knowledge we have gained by using them as production animals can be put to good use when planning research, but there are a number of other important factors that also need to be considered. Studies on farm animals can be some of the most demanding experiments to perform, and it is vital that scientists and the animal facility liaise closely together from day one of planning. We strongly recommend the PREPARE checklist and its associated webpages with more detailed recommendations. Some, but by no means all, of the challenges include:
- health status, acquisition, transport and acclimation to new buildings
- quarantine and adaptation to new feeding regimes
- establishment of new social groups
- provision of sufficient space for exercise, sampling, anaesthesia and necropsy
- ventilation issues
- the differences in practices between traditional farm work and those used in controlled studies in a laboratory environment
- health, safety and general hygiene
- waste disposal (e.g. contaminated carcases)
- containment of pathogens
- identification of sufficient numbers of staff who are familiar with, and competent to handle, farm animal species
Many of these issues are exacerbated by the sheer size of the animals.
Norecopa organised an international consensus meeting on the care and use of agricultural animals in research on 26-28 September 2012 at Gardermoen. The meeting addressed both the use of farm animals in traditional laboratory animal facilities and animal research performed under farm conditions. The presentations, overviews of guidelines for farm animal research and a consensus document from the participants are available for downloading.
The welfare standards issued by the RSPCA for many species will also be helpful.
Guidelines for farm animal research in the 3R Guide database
Some of the more general guidelines for animal research which Norecopa has collected will also be of direct or indirect relevance to studies on farm animals. This also applies to Norecopa's webpages on experimental design, and to a certain extent the webpages about the use of fish, laboratory animals and wildlife.
Resources on blood sampling of hens and pigs are available here.
There is a page with resources of special interest for those working with minipigs.
The REFLECT Statement for reporting livestock trials with production, health and food safety outcomes.
Nawroth et al. (2019): Farm Animal Cognition - Linking Behavior, Welfare and Ethics Front. Vet. Sci. 6:24. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2019.00024
National Avian Research Facility (NARF), Roslin Institute, UK
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