Data-Based Variables Used as Indicators of Dairy Cow Welfare at Farm Level: A Review
Centre for Proper Housing of Ruminants and Pigs, Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office FSVO, Agroscope Tänikon, 8356 Ettenhausen, Switzerland
Clinic for Ruminants, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, Bremgartenstrasse 109a, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
Farm-Animal Welfare Division, Agroscope Tänikon, 8356 Ettenhausen, Switzerland
Veterinary Public Health Institute, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, 3012 Bern, Switzerland
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Frank J.C.M Van Eerdenburg and Silvana Mattiello
Received: 3 September 2021
Revised: 15 November 2021
Accepted: 2 December 2021
Published: 4 December 2021
In recent years, the interest in the use of data from routine herd records in the monitoring of dairy welfare at farm level has increased. This review compiles 13 papers to outline the current potential of data-based variables for animal welfare monitoring. All the identified studies showed associations between data-based variables and farm-level dairy cow welfare and therefore provide a first indication of the possible use and suitability of data-based variables for welfare monitoring. However, we found that the definitions of animal welfare, its assessment on the farm, and the data-based variables varied considerably. Consequently, the current state of research does not allow a conclusive assessment of the potential of data-based variables for animal welfare monitoring. Therefore, future research is needed to clarify the potential of data-based variables. Harmonisation of the data-based variables and the use of valid measurements that reflect the multidimensionality of welfare could contribute to increased comparability between the studies.