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Animals 2014, 4(3), 446-462;

A Prototype Tool to Enable Farmers to Measure and Improve the Welfare Performance of the Farm Animal Enterprise: The Unified Field Index

CSIRO Animal, Food and Health Sciences, FD McMaster Laboratory, Armidale, NSW 2350, Australia
College of Veterinary Medicine, Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA 6150, Australia
Lindsay Matthews & Associates Research International, Scerne Di Pineto, Teramo 64025, Italy
Psychology Department, University of Auckland, Auckland 1020, New Zealand
Animal Welfare Science Centre, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC 3010, Australia
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 9 April 2014 / Revised: 4 July 2014 / Accepted: 4 July 2014 / Published: 15 July 2014
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Simple Summary

Benchmarking is a tool widely used in agricultural industries that harnesses the experience of farmers to generate knowledge of practices that lead to better on-farm productivity and performance. We propose, by analogy with production performance, a method for measuring the animal welfare performance of an enterprise and describe a tool for farmers to monitor and improve the animal welfare performance of their business. A general framework is outlined for assessing and monitoring risks to animal welfare based on measures of animals, the environment they are kept in and how they are managed. The tool would enable farmers to continually improve animal welfare.


Schemes for the assessment of farm animal welfare and assurance of welfare standards have proliferated in recent years. An acknowledged short-coming has been the lack of impact of these schemes on the welfare standards achieved on farm due in part to sociological factors concerning their implementation. Here we propose the concept of welfare performance based on a broad set of performance attributes of an enterprise and describe a tool based on risk assessment and benchmarking methods for measuring and managing welfare performance. The tool termed the Unified Field Index is presented in a general form comprising three modules addressing animal, resource, and management factors. Domains within these modules accommodate the principle conceptual perspectives for welfare assessment: biological functioning; emotional states; and naturalness. Pan-enterprise analysis in any livestock sector could be used to benchmark welfare performance of individual enterprises and also provide statistics of welfare performance for the livestock sector. An advantage of this concept of welfare performance is its use of continuous scales of measurement rather than traditional pass/fail measures. Through the feedback provided via benchmarking, the tool should help farmers better engage in on-going improvement of farm practices that affect animal welfare. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal welfare; assessment; unified field index; benchmarking; welfare performance animal welfare; assessment; unified field index; benchmarking; welfare performance

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Colditz, I.G.; Ferguson, D.M.; Collins, T.; Matthews, L.; Hemsworth, P.H. A Prototype Tool to Enable Farmers to Measure and Improve the Welfare Performance of the Farm Animal Enterprise: The Unified Field Index. Animals 2014, 4, 446-462.

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