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The animal health barometer

Measuring animal health

Measuring animal health


The animal health barometer is one of the 3 barometers of the safety of the food chain which were developed by the Scientific Committee of the FASFC. The animal health barometer is an instrument to gain insight in the evolution of the general animal health through the years in an objective manner and to communicate about it in a simple way. The advice 09-2011 of the Scientific Committee with regard to the development of an animal health barometer forms the base for this..

The animal health barometer consists of a basket of 13 carefully chosen, measurable indicators (animal health indicators or AHI) which together reflect the animal health situation. These indicators include all links of the animal production chain, i.e. from suppliers to slaughterhouses and fish markets, for both the Belgian production and for imports. The control of products (analyses) and organs, as well as controls of processes (inspections and audits) are both included in the basket. The preventive approach (self-checking, compulsory notification, traceability (FR)) and yearly mortality numbers for certain animal species are also covered by the barometer. The majority of these indicators are measured within the context of the control program of the FASFC, allowing a simple annual monitoring. A specific characteristic of the animal health barometer (in comparison with the food safety barometer and the plant health barometer) is that some of the data is originating from sources external to the FASFC. This is the particular case for indicator AHI7 (Number of somatic cells in milk), the data for which originate from the MelkControleCentrum Vlaanderen and the Comité du lait as well as indicators AHI10 (Mortality in slaughter pigs) and AHI11 (Mortality of small ruminants) for which mortality data were obtained from Rendac.

Given the different impact of these 13 indicators upon animal health, their relative importance was weighted by the various stakeholders of the food chain, i.e. risk managers, the Advisory Committee (including representatives of other public administrations and of the various sector and consumer organisations) and the Scientific Committee of the FASFC. As such, indicators related to the duty to mandatory report notifiable animal diseases and related to inspections on infrastructure, facilities and hygiene received a relatively high weighting factor. On the other hand, indicators related to mortality in slaughter pigs, small ruminants and veal calves and related to observations in slaughterhouses received a rather low weighting factor.

An overview of the various indicators and their weighting factors is given in the table “Overview of the food safety indicators”. More details on the indicators can be found in the technical data sheets presented in Annex 1 of Advice 09-2011 of the Scientific Committee.

Based on the results of the animal health indicators and the weighting of the relative importance of these indicators an animal health barometer may thus be defined. This barometer measures the state of the general health of production animals in Belgium on an annual basis, and this in relation to the previous year. The result of the barometer is expressed as a comparison with the state of a previous year as it is difficult to express animal health in absolute figures, since animal health depends, among other things, on standards or action limits defined on a policy-level and liable to changes.

Overview of the animal health indicators (AHI) :

Ref. Type of indicator Weighting factor
AHI1: The duty to mandatory report notifiable animal diseases 1,87
AHI2: Self-checking for the primary animal production sector 1,11
AHI3: Inspections of infrastructure, facilities and hygiene 1,57
AHI4: Traceability inspections 1,19
AHI5: Animal welfare inspections 0,61
AHI6: The duty to report bovine abortions 1,22
AHI7: Number of somatic cells in milk 0,80
AHI8: Parasitic liver damage in pigs 0,42
AHI9: Antibiotic resistance in E. coli indicator bacteria 1,49
AHI10: Mortality in slaughter pigs 0,84
AHI11: Mortality of small ruminants 0,54
AHI12: Poultry carcasses declared non-compliant 0,65
AHI13: Mortality of veal calves 0,69
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