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Animal health economics (AHE)

Main research question/goal
In the animal production chain, actors such as farmers, veterinarians, processors and governments have to make decisions every day to manage animal health, animal welfare and the safety of animal food products. These decisions imply a allocation of scarce resources (money, time, space, administration, etc.). Further, these decisions have an impact not only on the actual purpose (healthy animals and safe food), but also on aspects such as the income of farmers and the price of agricultural products. To make optimal choices in this area, it is advisable to carry out research that integrates veterinary and epidemiological knowledge with benefits and costs acording to economic principles. This project aims to develop and refine methods to economically analyse decisions related to animal health, on the basis of case studies. The focus is on deciding on the optimal way and amount of monitoring and prevention, both at farm level and at the societal level.

Research approach
We start from a conceptual economic framework that evaluates the value of new information. We operationalise the conceptual framework. In the first phase, we do this based on relevant case studies at farm level (eg., monitoring for parasitic infections). In the second phase, this is based on relevant case studies at the societal level. Investigation of the selected case studies with clear relevance to the Flemish and European agriculture allows us to refine the original conceptual framework. We formulate recommendations for an efficient and effective implementation of the technical-economic evaluation framework in concrete practical cases.

This study provides recommendations regarding the optimal (efficient and economic) monitoring and prevention of animal welfare, animal health and food safety of animal products. These recommendations will be most practical for the case studies examined, but there are also recommendations on the generalisation of the methodology for use in other instances. The results will be validated in scientific publications. Health and welfare and safety of animal food is a major challenge in European agriculture. Public health continues to suffer from the consumption of contaminated animal products. Further, animal health problems can lead to sub-optimal production results, an inefficient use of inputs, a sensitivity to shocks and poor financial performance at farm level.
Date:1 Jan 2014 →  31 Oct 2017