Animal Health Matters at Sida

  • 08th March 2017
  • by secretary

8 March 2017. Stockholm Sweden. EBA seminar Animal Health Matters. In the Expertgruppen för biståndsanalys (EBA)- report, Professors Jonathan Rushton, Arvid Uggla, and Ulf Magnusson present the significance of reliable animal health control systems in relation to sustainable and resilient livelihoods in low-income countries, with recommendations on priorities and strategies for a science-based animal health management.

The presentation of the report was a starting point for a discussion on the role of animal health in order to meet, in particular, SDG goals 1 and 2 and if and how to export Sweden’s competence in combining a limited use of antibiotics with high productivity and animal welfare.
The review of policy and position documents from Swedish and international aid donors make one thing obvious: animal health is not a primary target. At best, it may appear subordinate to agriculture in a broad sense. In some cases, the links between human and animal health are pointed out, but usually from a human perspective and including the role of animals in the transmission of zoonotic and drug resistant microorganisms to humans. (page 60 of the report). The livestock sector looks as the biggest loser in the currently changing international aid strategies – and in the poorest countries’ economic policies (page 63). The agendas of most organizations are focused on the empowerment of women and on sustainable agricultural development. Again, few of them are referring specifically to animal health. (page 66).
Jonathan Rushton, Arvid Uggla and Ulf Magnusson 
Expertgruppen för biståndsanalys (EBA) 2017, 95 pages
Animal health deserves more of our attention. The absence of adequate animal health systems places a heavy burden on individual animal farmers, who, on their own, might find it hard to take necessary action to prevent the spreading of diseases. Animal diseases spread not only to other animals, but also to human beings. Investing in animal health can thus also be considered a global public good.
Arvid Uggla

The Expertgruppen för biståndsanalys (EBA) has commissioned Jonathan Rushton, Arvid Uggla and Ulf Magnusson to undertake this review on the importance of animal health for economic development. The authors point at the need to build proper control and surveillance systems and provide a review of the existing strategies and policies of Sweden and international donors. They conclude that Sweden has the potential to fill investment gaps in collaboration with other international and national actors, including Swedish universities and public authorities.

Ulf Magnusson


The World Development Report (WDR) 2008 is focused on crop productivity. It makes no reference to the fact that improved crop productivity often leads to surplus grains being consumed by livestock to add value. page 23

The most common livestock system in Low Income Countries (LICs) is family-based smallholder farming where crops and a few animals are integrated. These systems are low-input and low-output. They produce the vast majority of the food consumed in their countries and account for approximately 50 per cent of the global beef and milk production. page 26

Consumption level of animal source foods is inadequate to meet nutritional and physical development needs of millions of poor people. However, new intensive livestock systems are actually capable of solving these problems. They pose new research and policy challenges regarding the distribution and management of externalities relating to
disease, antimicrobial resistance and waste management.
page 27

New technologies in order to maintain high animal health and production status have not always been available. Even though intensive systems are becoming more important, large parts of the animal source food in LICs are still produced by smallholders. page 29

Women constitute the majority of poor livestock keepers, but the current priority setting for interventions only rarely take their experiences and needs into account. Thus, there is both an efficiency issue and an equity issue justifying a gender dimension in animal health interventions. page 30

Livestock and hence healthy animals are keys to food security, directly or indirectly, especially in LICs. Subsequently, the benefits of healthier animals would have far-reaching consequences for food security in those countries. page 40

Two-thirds of our infectious diseases originate from animals, and a recent estimate states that three-quarters of emerging human infections have their origin in animals page 43

A reduction in antibiotic use can be implemented without severe long-term effects on poultry, beef or pig production – if matched by appropriate management and disease-preventive 46

There are many examples where governments provide services that favour those who are better off. page 55


Research on international animal health issues is frequent at SLU. It is often combined with PhD training of students from LICs and from Sweden. Funding has until recently come from the Sida research council (U-forsk).

  • Today it is handled by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet), and is sometimes co-funded by the Swedish research council Formas and the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB). 
  • This funding mechanism has helped build a Swedish resource base for solid research and training competence on animal health issues in LICs. 
  • The fact that SLU is leading the animal health part of the upcoming international CGIAR research programme “Livestock agri-food systems” (2017) could be viewed as a recognition of its capacity.
Why research on animal feeds and forages in developing countries? (pages 125-126)

Feed is a key limiting factor and often the most expensive input in livestock production (Swanepoel et al., 2010).

Integrating feed and forage research with improved animal health and genetics can lead to significant enhancements in livestock production, up to 240% (Herrero et al., 2016). In mixed crop–livestock systems, which often have the potential to intensify, the most important contributors to feed resources are forages, crop residues and rangelands (Herrero et al., 2013), while in pastoral and agro-pastoral systems grazing of rangelands is the principal, often the only, source of feed.

  • This flagship provides feedbased solutions that respond to challenges in the rapid growth trajectory to increase the quantity and quality of feed biomass, to smooth seasonal variability without over-taxing the natural resource base and harness positive environmental effects, such as contributions to biodiversity, soil fertility and carbon sequestration. Example locations include Kenya, Nicaragua and Vietnam.
  • The flagship enhances livelihoods of smallholder livestock keepers and producers for both growth scenarios through the development of new feed and forage options which contribute to sustainable intensification, resilience and market linkages. It will contribute to closing the yield gap together with the other technology flagships and provide inputs for the systems flagships in this CRP (Livestock Livelihoods and AgriFood Systems and Livestock and the Environment) and other CRPs (e.g. CCAFS, DCL, Wheat and WLE)
  • Feed and forage research ensures efficiently produced milk and meat will help to combat malnutrition and ensure nutritious and diverse agri-food systems and diets. 

Examples of specific changes that the flagship will influence through collaboration include:

  • Diagnosis of feed constraints and opportunities, and effective prioritization and targeting of feed and forage interventions; 
  • availability of new forage, rangeland and crop cultivars, superior to local through ‘next users’ to farmers; 
  • delivery and uptake of feed and forage technologies through proof-of-concept scaling, business model development and value-chain approaches; 
  • better utilization of existing and novel feed and forage resources, and application of management strategies to conserve and rehabilitate rangelands and pastures.