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Measuring general animal health status: Development of an animal health barometer

Depoorter, Pieter, Van Huffel, Xavier, Diricks, Herman, Imberechts, Hein, Dewulf, Jeroen, Berkvens, Dirk, Uyttendaele, Mieke
Preventive veterinary medicine 2015 v.118 no.4 pp. 341-350
animal development, animal health, animal production, experts, food chain, food safety, health status, issues and policy, livestock, plant health, scientists, stakeholders, Belgium
The development of an animal health barometer, an instrument to measure the general health of the Belgian livestock population on a yearly basis and to monitor its evolution over time, is described. The elaboration of a set of 13 animal health indicators (AHIs) as the basis for the animal health barometer is discussed. These indicators were weighted by experts – including scientists, policy makers and agro-industrial representatives – to determine their relative weight in the barometer. The result of the barometer is expressed as a comparison with a previous year. Based on the results of the 13 AHIs, it is concluded that general animal health in Belgium shows a positive evolution since 2008. The animal health barometer provides a composite view of the status of livestock health in Belgium and is a tool to communicate in an intelligible, comprehensible manner on aspects of animal health to consumers and professional stakeholders in the animal production and food chain. Together with the food safety barometer (Baert et al., 2011. Food Res. Int. 44, 940) and the plant health barometer (Wilmart et al., 2014. Eur. J. Plant Pathol. doi: 10.1007/s10658-014-0547-x), the animal health barometer is one of the three instruments to provide a holistic view on the overall status of the safety of the food chain in Belgium.