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New professor of management of production diseases

As of 1 September 2021, Department of Animal Science at Aarhus University has appointed Peter T. Thomsen professor of management of welfare-related production diseases in livestock herds.

As of 1 September 2021, Peter T. Thomsen from Department of Animal Science at Aarhus University has been appointed professor of management of welfare-related production diseases in livestock herds. With this appointment, the department states its ambition of staying in lead when it comes to developing concepts of livestock production where efficiency and production go hand in hand with animal health and welfare.

“Improving production animals’ welfare is one of the core activities of the department’s research, and management of production diseases plays an important role here. With this professorship, focussing especially on production diseases among dairy cows, we want to improve the farmer’s possibilities of combining the demands for good animal welfare, considering climate and environment and a reasonable production economy in livestock production”, says Head of Department Klaus Lønne Ingvartsen   

For many years, Peter T. Thomsen has conducted research in management of production diseases – particularly focussing on dairy cows. His PhD project was about loser cows. In fact, Peter invented the word “loser cow” which has been accepted in the Danish vocabulary. Peter has been employed in Foulum since 2005 where he has worked with many different aspects of health and welfare. Two areas in particular have been key aspects in his research: mortality among dairy cows, and lameness and hoof diseases.

“Improving production animals’ welfare plays an important role in my research. However, at the same time, I am very much aware that the consideration for animal welfare cannot stand alone. We also need to focus on the climate and environment, and, finally, it is also important that the production is profitable to the farmer. Fortunately, in many occasions it is possible to combine demands for animal welfare, consideration for the climate and environment, and a reasonable production economy. Longevity is a good example of such a “win-win situation” where a longer lifetime in for example dairy cows or sows is linked to better welfare, reduced climate impact per litre of milk or kilograms of meat and a better farm economy”, says Peter T. Thomsen.

Peter’s research is about all aspects of production diseases: diagnostics, prevention and treatment. “Prevention and treatment are of course important elements in the management of production diseases. However, there is a tendency often to overlook the importance of diagnostics. If the farmer does not spot a sick animal, the animal is not treated – affecting animal welfare and production economy negatively”, says Peter T. Thomsen. For many years, he has therefore worked with easy and early detection of production diseases. 

The research has included both manual methods and automatic registrations, for example in lameness in dairy cows. Here, Peter has worked on detecting lame cows based on arching of their back, which is an easy and simple manual method to spot the lame cows. “Concomitantly, I have also studied the possibilities of using automatic methods for identifying lame cows – based on the cows’ lying time and automatic image analysis. I believe that each of the two approaches has both pros and cons – and that they supplement each other to a great extent”, explains Peter T. Thomsen.

“I see it as my job to help the farmer ensuring the best possible health and welfare among our production animals. It is my ambition to conduct practical applied research based on the farmer’s everyday life. In this connection, it is important to remember that modern farmers are busy. Therefore, the research results must be implementable in a busy everyday life. This is the only way that research actually makes a difference in the herds. Most of my research is conducted in private herds. I am very grateful for the farmers’ hospitality, interest and commitment over the years, and I look forward to many new, exciting research projects”, concludes Peter T. Thomsen.

About Professor Peter T. Thomsen
Peter is 50 years old and lives together with his wife, Helle, and their two daughters, Laura (18 years old) and Katrine (16 years old), in Bjerregrav north of Viborg. The entire family shares a great interest in cows.

In 1997, Peter received his DVM degree. After that, he worked as a veterinary practitioner for 5 years. After the years working in practise, he conducted a PhD study in veterinary epidemiology at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Copenhagen. Since 2005, he has been employed in Foulum, first as a project scientist and afterwards as a senior scientist.

In 2007, Peter was acknowledged as European Veterinary Specialist in Bovine Health Management.