Special Issue "Farm Animal Welfare"

A special issue of Agriculture (ISSN 2077-0472).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 April 2019)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Assoc. Prof. Alison J. Hanlon

School of Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, D04 V1W8 Dublin, Ireland
Website | E-Mail
Phone: +353-1-7166249
Interests: animal welfare; policy; veterinary ethics, one welfare
Guest Editor
Dr. Laura Boyle

Teagasc Animal and Grassland Research and Innovation Centre, Moorepark, Fermoy, Co Cork, Ireland
Website | E-Mail
Phone: +353-76-1112389
Interests: Pig and dairy cow welfare science, on-farm and abattoir welfare assessments/quality assurance, lameness, links between animal health and welfare/one welfare, research and agricultural ethics

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue will focus on the role of stakeholders in supporting higher animal welfare standards in animal agriculture. From policy makers to producers to food business operators and consumers, all have a responsibility regarding the animal welfare standards in food animal production. What progress has been made since the European Commission ‘Everyone is Responsible’ approach in 2010 (https://youtu.be/RsRqvK5sAbs)? For this issue we are interested in exploring examples of positive change, from the diversity of the stakeholder community.

Assoc. Prof. Alison J. Hanlon
Dr. Laura Boyle
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Agriculture is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 550 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Stakeholders
  • Private standards
  • Quality assurance
  • Animal welfare

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Behaviour and Skin Injuries of Piglets Originating from a Novel Group Farrowing System Before and After Weaning
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 93; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050093
Received: 26 January 2019 / Revised: 8 April 2019 / Accepted: 28 April 2019 / Published: 2 May 2019
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Abstract
The aim of this study was to analyse a novel group farrowing system (GH) concerning piglets’ behaviour, skin injuries and body weight gain, to test its animal friendliness. Skin injuries and weight gain were compared to piglets originating from conventional individual housing (IH) [...] Read more.
The aim of this study was to analyse a novel group farrowing system (GH) concerning piglets’ behaviour, skin injuries and body weight gain, to test its animal friendliness. Skin injuries and weight gain were compared to piglets originating from conventional individual housing (IH) before and after weaning. The GH system had five farrowing pens without crates, a common area and an area only available for piglets. In total, 34 litters were studied. Four days after the GH-piglets had left the pens during lactation, the lesion score of piglets in GH was higher than in IH. However, piglets from the GH sustained fewer injuries after mixing at weaning, compared to the piglets from IH and had higher daily weight gains, during the early nursery phase. The common area in GH was intensively used for active behaviour, since standing/walking and playing were observed there, most frequently, whereas lying occurred most frequently inside the pens. Immediately after the piglets had left the pens in the GH, the piglets preferred proximity to the sow, compared to the pens where they were born. The GH system enabled social enrichment, offered increased space for activity and led to fewer skin lesions, after weaning; thus, potentially increasing animal welfare. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Farm Animal Welfare)
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Open AccessArticle
Case Study of an Automatic Enrichment Device for Laying Hens on a Free-Range Laying Hen Farm
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 91; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050091
Received: 14 March 2019 / Revised: 21 April 2019 / Accepted: 25 April 2019 / Published: 1 May 2019
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Abstract
Access to adequate foraging material can reduce the occurrence of feather pecking and cannibalism in laying hens. Technical devices may help farmers provide enrichment material more effectively. However, research in this field is rare. On a commercial free-range farm with 15,000 laying hens [...] Read more.
Access to adequate foraging material can reduce the occurrence of feather pecking and cannibalism in laying hens. Technical devices may help farmers provide enrichment material more effectively. However, research in this field is rare. On a commercial free-range farm with 15,000 laying hens (Lohmann Tradition), an enrichment device was evaluated from the 30th to the 58th week of age (LW). It ran at five time points (TP) in the afternoon and offered five grams of dried maize silage per hen per day. The numbers of hens residing in defined scratching areas (ScA) either beneath the device (ScA 1 and 3) or in a similar area without the device (ScA 2) were determined. Significantly more hens were found in ScA 1 and ScA 3 when the device was running. On average, only 6.96 (±7.00) hens stayed in ScA 2, whereas 31.45 (±5.38) and 33.83 (±6.16) hens stayed in ScA 1 and ScA 3, respectively. The hen numbers for ScA 1 and ScA 3 did not differ significantly, nor did the TPs have an influence on number of hens within ScA 1 and ScA 3. The number of hens beneath the device can serve as a potential indicator of the device’s usage. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Farm Animal Welfare)
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Open AccessArticle
Assessing the Validity of Animal-Based Indicators of Sheep Health and Welfare: Do Observers Agree?
Agriculture 2019, 9(5), 88; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9050088
Received: 15 March 2019 / Revised: 21 April 2019 / Accepted: 24 April 2019 / Published: 28 April 2019
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Abstract
Sixteen animal-based indicators of sheep welfare, previously selected by a stakeholder panel, and based on the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) Five Freedoms, were assessed in terms of the level of inter-observer agreement achieved during on-farm testing. Eight observers independently tested the 16 [...] Read more.
Sixteen animal-based indicators of sheep welfare, previously selected by a stakeholder panel, and based on the Farm Animal Welfare Council (FAWC) Five Freedoms, were assessed in terms of the level of inter-observer agreement achieved during on-farm testing. Eight observers independently tested the 16 indicators on 1158 sheep from 38 farms in England and Wales. Overall inter-observer agreement was evaluated by Fleiss’s kappa (κ), and the pair-wise agreement of each observer was compared to a ‘test standard’ observer (TSO). Inter-observer assessments of the welfare indicators; dental abnormality, cleanliness score (ventral abdomen), mastitis, tail length, skin lesions, body condition scoring and lameness produced ‘fair to good’ levels of agreement (0.40 < κ < 0.75) and joint swellings had ‘excellent’ levels of agreement (κ ≥ 0.75). The very low apparent prevalence (<0.8%) of sheep with specific outcomes such as pruritis, wool loss, myiasis, thin body condition, diffuse or severe skin lesions limited kappa analysis for these indicators. Overall, findings suggest that observers of differing experience, training and occupation were reliable in assessing key animal-based indicators of sheep health and welfare. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Farm Animal Welfare)
Open AccessArticle
Risk Factors for Dystocia and Perinatal Mortality in Extensively Kept Angus Suckler Cows in Germany
Agriculture 2019, 9(4), 85; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9040085
Received: 5 March 2019 / Revised: 22 April 2019 / Accepted: 24 April 2019 / Published: 25 April 2019
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Abstract
Dystocia and perinatal mortality are major animal health, welfare and economic issues in beef suckler cow production. The objective of this study was to identify risk factors for dystocia and perinatal mortality and to analyze the relationships of both traits to external pelvic [...] Read more.
Dystocia and perinatal mortality are major animal health, welfare and economic issues in beef suckler cow production. The objective of this study was to identify risk factors for dystocia and perinatal mortality and to analyze the relationships of both traits to external pelvic parameters in extensively kept beef suckler cows. Calving ease and calf survival were recorded for 785 births on five Angus cattle farms in Germany. The prevalence of dystocia and perinatal mortality was 3.4% and 4.3%, respectively. A hierarchical model was used to predict dystocia and perinatal mortality. First-parity dams had a higher probability of dystocia (p < 0.0001) than later-parity ones. Increasing birth weight was associated with an increasing risk for dystocia (p < 0.05). The probability of perinatal mortality (p < 0.0001) was higher in assisted births than in unassisted births. Calves from first-parity dams had a higher risk (p < 0.01) of being stillborn than calves from dams in later parities. An increase in the length of the pelvis was associated with an increase in odds for perinatal mortality (p < 0.001). In conclusion, the study indicates that dystocia and perinatal mortality are mainly problems in first-parity suckler cows. Concerning the predictive value of external pelvic parameters, further research is necessary. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Farm Animal Welfare)
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Multi-Stakeholder Focus Groups on Potential for Meat Inspection Data to Inform Management of Pig Health and Welfare on Farm
Agriculture 2019, 9(2), 40; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9020040
Received: 20 January 2019 / Revised: 12 February 2019 / Accepted: 13 February 2019 / Published: 19 February 2019
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Abstract
Meat inspection (MI) findings can act as a valuable source of information on pig health and welfare. The PIG WELFare INDicators (PIGWELFIND) project (Research Stimulus Fund 11/S/107) was developed to progress the development of ante and post mortem MI as a pig health [...] Read more.
Meat inspection (MI) findings can act as a valuable source of information on pig health and welfare. The PIG WELFare INDicators (PIGWELFIND) project (Research Stimulus Fund 11/S/107) was developed to progress the development of ante and post mortem MI as a pig health and welfare diagnostic tool in Ireland. Three multi-stakeholder focus groups were organized to explore areas of conflict and agreement between stakeholders’ vision for including pig health and welfare indicators in MI and on how to achieve this vision. Each focus group consisted of eight stakeholders: pig producers, Teagasc pig advisors, pig processors, veterinarians involved in MI, private veterinary practitioners, and personnel with backgrounds in general animal health and welfare and food safety policy. In general, stakeholders expressed positive attitudes towards the use of MI data to inform pig health and welfare when standardization of recording and feedback is improved, and the MI system provides real-time benchmarking possibilities. Most emphasis was placed on health indicators as a first priority, while it was felt that welfare-related indicators could be included after practical barriers had been addressed (i.e., line speed/feasibility, standardization and training of meat inspectors, data ownership). Recommendations are made to further progress the development of MI as a pig health and welfare diagnostic tool and address some of these barriers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Farm Animal Welfare)
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle
Comparison of Two Free-Farrowing Systems and a Conventional Farrowing Crate System with Special Regard to Air Hygiene
Agriculture 2019, 9(1), 12; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9010012
Received: 30 October 2018 / Revised: 21 December 2018 / Accepted: 28 December 2018 / Published: 8 January 2019
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Abstract
The aim of this study was to analyze the air quality in two different commercially available free-farrowing systems in comparison with a conventional farrowing crate system. A group housing system for six lactating sows (GH) and a single loose-housing system (LH) were tested [...] Read more.
The aim of this study was to analyze the air quality in two different commercially available free-farrowing systems in comparison with a conventional farrowing crate system. A group housing system for six lactating sows (GH) and a single loose-housing system (LH) were tested against systems with farrowing crates (FC) under similar conditions. In eight evaluated batches with 148 farrowings, measurements were performed at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of the occupancy period of 33 days. The mean dust concentration was significantly higher in GH than in LH and FC at the mid-point. The mean ammonia concentration was significantly higher in GH compared to LH and FC at the beginning of occupancy. The mean concentration of endotoxins was significantly higher in FC than in LH and GH at the end of occupancy. Furthermore, the systems did not differ significantly from each other. Spearman’s analysis revealed correlations between dust and time of occupancy, between ammonia and carbon dioxide, and between ammonia and the inside temperature and outside temperature. The new husbandry systems offer animals more opportunities to move without endangering animal welfare through deteriorated air hygiene. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Farm Animal Welfare)
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Addressing Animal Welfare through Collaborative Stakeholder Networks
Agriculture 2019, 9(6), 132; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9060132
Received: 19 April 2019 / Revised: 19 June 2019 / Accepted: 19 June 2019 / Published: 22 June 2019
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Abstract
In this review, we discuss animal welfare as a complex and contested issue facing society and outline why collaborative, multi-stakeholder approaches are critical for effective policy development. Using the lens of “wicked problems” and drawing upon governance literature on policy networks, we identify [...] Read more.
In this review, we discuss animal welfare as a complex and contested issue facing society and outline why collaborative, multi-stakeholder approaches are critical for effective policy development. Using the lens of “wicked problems” and drawing upon governance literature on policy networks, we identify important factors for working with the inherent complexity of animal welfare through the inclusion of various stakeholder perspectives. We present two case studies that illustrate policy network approaches to animal welfare and highlight the value of fostering collaboration among various stakeholder groups from the industry, community, research, and government sectors. We suggest that the influence of stakeholder networks will likely increase in coming years as newer forms of participatory governance become common. By understanding how collaborative stakeholder networks establish participatory governance, productive communication, and collective priorities, leaders in the field of animal welfare can more productively engage with stakeholders and achieve long-lasting improvements in animal welfare. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Farm Animal Welfare)
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Open AccessReview
Labelling as a Tool for Improving Animal Welfare—The Pig Case
Agriculture 2019, 9(6), 123; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture9060123
Received: 14 May 2019 / Revised: 8 June 2019 / Accepted: 10 June 2019 / Published: 13 June 2019
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Abstract
Market-based promotion of animal welfare has become increasingly important in the EU. Retailers in several countries have implemented graded animal welfare labels for a variety of animal-based products. In this paper, we use labels for pork as a case study and investigate which [...] Read more.
Market-based promotion of animal welfare has become increasingly important in the EU. Retailers in several countries have implemented graded animal welfare labels for a variety of animal-based products. In this paper, we use labels for pork as a case study and investigate which aspects of animal welfare are promoted by pig welfare labels; we further discuss to what extent labels address the major welfare problems observed in European pig production. Consumers generally focus on aspects of animal welfare related to naturalness, such as outdoor access, straw, and duration of suckling period. Animal welfare labels often address these aspects in addition to other welfare aspects that are of interest to the consumer, such as space, mutilations, confinement, and access to roughage. Major welfare problems such as piglet mortality and weaner diarrhoea are not directly addressed by pig welfare labels. As pig welfare labels often require intact tails, it will also be relevant to address the risk of tail biting and tail lesions. Pig welfare labels, in general, do not use animal-based measures; rather, they are resource-based measures, while animal-based measures are more directly related to animal welfare. Animal-based measures are more difficult and expensive to use in a certification system than resource-based ones. In addition, animal-based measures may be more difficult to communicate to consumers. However, inclusion of animal-based measures would improve reproducibility of labels across production systems and provide documentation on actual levels of major animal welfare problems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Farm Animal Welfare)

Other

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Open AccessBrief Report
Rearing Male Layer Chickens: A German Perspective
Agriculture 2018, 8(11), 176; https://doi.org/10.3390/agriculture8110176
Received: 19 October 2018 / Revised: 1 November 2018 / Accepted: 6 November 2018 / Published: 9 November 2018
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Abstract
The killing of male layer hybrids in the hatcheries, at a day-old, is common practice but it also raises strong socio-ethical concerns. In recent years, three different approaches to avoid this killing have been developed—the in ovo sex determination, the rearing of male [...] Read more.
The killing of male layer hybrids in the hatcheries, at a day-old, is common practice but it also raises strong socio-ethical concerns. In recent years, three different approaches to avoid this killing have been developed—the in ovo sex determination, the rearing of male layers for meat, and the use of dual-purpose breeds. In Germany, about one million male layers are raised each year in the organic and conventional sector. Regarding animal health and welfare, this concept seems favourable. However, the main challenge, that is, to what extent these animals can be kept in a resource-friendly and ecologically sustainable way, remains yet to be solved. Currently, for a niche, this approach contributes to the diversification of the German market. It serves as an example for reacting to societal concerns immediately, before feasible solutions are available for the entire system of modern poultry production. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Farm Animal Welfare)
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