PROHEALTH was the largest European animal health project ever funded to help combat production diseases of pigs and poultry.
Rapidly increasing world population growth is causing increasing concern about future food security. Resulting intensification of farming increases the risk and susceptibility of animals to production diseases, which are multi-factorial in origin.
Production diseases are estimated to cause 10-15% reduction in performance efficiency of pig and poultry farming, resulting in huge financial losses. Coccidiosis alone costs the US poultry industry over US$ 1.5 billion. The evolution of production diseases and emergences of new infections clearly challenge the existing options to treat animals and control diseases spread, which leads to the need for new tools and innovative solutions.
The scientific concept and overall aim of the project was to:
- ‘Contribute to our understanding of the multifactorial dimension of animal pathologies linked to the intensification of production’
- ‘To help provide effective control strategies to reduce the impact on animal welfare, including health’.
PROHEALTH recognised that there are many inter-linked factors that cause production disease. Therefore, a holistic approach is needed to allow effective improvement strategies, which will have clear animal welfare and economic benefit.
The project addressed the production diseases of pigs, broiler and egg laying chickens, and turkeys in a wide range of intensive systems across the EU. World experts were pooled with many experts around Europe.
The project included a range of participatory R&D activities, involving the development of improvement strategies, dissemination activities and digital tools and platforms for the EU pig and poultry industries.
Rising demand for animal products, an increasing global population as well as global com- petition have increased the level and intensification of livestock production. This trend comes at a price: production diseases compromise health and welfare, generating inefficiencies which negatively impact on profitability, environmental footprint, and product quality. They may also increase the need to treat the affected animals with antibiotics.
Production diseases can be defined as ‘Diseases which tend to persist in animal production systems and, typically, become more prevalent or severe, in proportion to the potential productivity of the system’. These disease conditions have a great impact both in the EU and worldwide: compromised health and welfare for the animals themselves, and consequently substantial financial losses.
The PROHEALTH project aimed to develop an understanding of the multi-factorial dimension of animal pathologies linked to the intensification of production and to use this new knowledge to develop, evaluate and disseminate effective management and control strategies.
The PROHEALTH project addressed each of the components in the network of production disease causation. In particular, the specific objectives of the project were to:
- identify the risk factors for production diseases and establishing associations between diseases;
- explore the role of genetic and environmental factors on neonatal survival and in exerting longer-term developmental influences on health;
- evaluate the effects of genetic selection for productive traits on susceptibility and identify strategies to mitigate these;
- determine the role of variation in farm environment on the temporal expression of production diseases;
- characterize the microbio-immunological changes and identify pathological changes at the molecular level which take place during production diseases in order to develop diagnostic tools;
- synthesize strategies to reduce the impact of production diseases on a farm and assess the efficacy of improvement strategies in reducing disease prevalence or severity; and
- identify economically viable and socially acceptable ways to control pathologies, withemphasis on animal welfare implications.
The workplan designed to achieve the objectives of the project was been subdivided into 9 work packages (WP):
WPs 1-7 addressed the specific objectives in pigs, meat-producing and egg laying chickens, and turkeys. Their overarching objective was to improve:
- Animal health and welfare
- Product Quality in pig and poultry systems
- Whilst ensuring the economic and environmental sustainability
In addition, WP8 focused on the development of essential dissemination tools for the animal-related industries, wider public and consumers, and established new e-learning tools for various stakeholders. WP9 comprised project management and coordination activities.
The PROHEALTH project contributed to the understanding of the multifactorial dimension of animal pathologies linked to the intensification of production. It helped to provide effective control strategies to reduce the negative impact on animal health and welfare.
Dissemination activities targeted all stakeholders in the food chain. PROHEALTH delivered novel diagnostics for the propensity to develop production diseases and their occurrence, and multifactorial improvement strategies. Ultimately, the results of PROHEALTH allow the production of better quality products in a welfare friendly manner and improve competitiveness and sustainability of EU pig and poultry systems.