Special Issue "Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators"

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Animal Welfare".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 October 2020).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. David W. Miller
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
College of Science, Health, Engineering & Education, Murdoch University, Murdoch, WA 6150, Australia
Interests: on-farm and supply-chain welfare indicators; nutritional strategies to reduce stress; qualitative behavioural assessment; new technologies for welfare monitoring; impact of handling conditions and novel environments on stress

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Since the field of animal welfare science was established nearly 50 years ago, many advances in welfare research have been made, however substantial knowledge gaps remain. There is an increasing recognition in the community that animals possess an intrinsic value, that they are important sources of food, fibre and other products, and that animals play a key role in the history, culture and development of countries. Hence, there are increasing requirements for accreditation of the animal welfare credentials of animal custodians and products from farm animals. Valid, reliable and feasible animal-based welfare assessment protocols will improve the process of identification and justification of animal welfare standards.

Animal welfare indicators need to be practical, cost-effective, reliable and replicable if they are to be useful and accurately reflect the true welfare state of the animal. Welfare measures also require assessment that captures the complexity of animal responses. The integration of different processes (behaviour, physiology, health, molecular activity and performance) is recognised as vital for the development of new animal welfare indicators. Recent developments in biosensor technologies, remote behavioural monitoring and complex systems data analysis offer important avenues for future research in this field.

This Special Issue is interested in both reviews and research papers on all aspects of welfare indicator development and assessment, in vertebrate and invertebrate species. It is also interested in analysis of the different perceptions and attitudes towards animal welfare. This includes papers on matching the acceptable levels of animal welfare measures with differing human attitudes and expectations.

Assoc. Prof. David W. Miller
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 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

  • animal welfare
  • objective measures
  • acute and chronic stress
  • cognitive ethology
  • affective state
  • behavioural assessment
  • modification of reactivity
  • invasive versus non-invasive
  • animal ethics
  • complex systems science
  • positive welfare
  • welfare and genetics
  • immunocompetence
  • measurement redundancy

Published Papers (25 papers)

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Article
The Relation between Hair-Cortisol Concentration and Various Welfare Assessments of Dutch Dairy Farms
Animals 2021, 11(3), 821; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030821 - 15 Mar 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 678
Abstract
Many protocols have been developed to assess farm animal welfare. However, the validity of these protocols is still subject to debate. The present study aimed to compare nine welfare assessment protocols, namely: (1) Welfare Quality© (WQ), (2) a modified version of Welfare [...] Read more.
Many protocols have been developed to assess farm animal welfare. However, the validity of these protocols is still subject to debate. The present study aimed to compare nine welfare assessment protocols, namely: (1) Welfare Quality© (WQ), (2) a modified version of Welfare Quality (WQ Mod), which has a better discriminative power, (3) WelzijnsWijzer (Welfare Indicator; WW), (4) a new Welfare Monitor (WM), (5) Continue Welzijns Monitor (Continuous Welfare Monitor; CWM), (6) KoeKompas (Cow Compass; KK), (7) Cow Comfort Scoring System (CCSS), (8) Stall Standing Index (SSI) and (9) a Welfare Index (WI Tuyttens). In addition, a simple welfare estimation by veterinarians (Estimate vets, EV) was added. Rank correlation coefficients were calculated between each of the welfare assessment protocol scores and mean hair cortisol concentrations from 10 cows at 58 dairy farms spread over the Netherlands. Because it has been suggested that the hair cortisol level is related to stress, experienced over a long period of time, we expected a negative correlation between cortisol and the result of the welfare protocol scores. Only the simple welfare estimation by veterinarians (EV) (ρ = −0.28) had a poor, but significant, negative correlation with hair cortisol. This correlations, however, failed to reach significance after correction of p-values for multiple correlations. Most of the results of the different welfare assessment protocols had a poor, fair or strong positive correlation with each other, supporting the notion that they measure something similar. Additional analyses revealed that the modified Welfare Quality protocol parameters housing (ρ = −0.30), the new Welfare Monitor (WM) parameter health (ρ = −0.33), and milk yield (ρ = −0.33) showed negative correlations with cortisol. We conclude that because only five out of all the parameter scores from the welfare assessment protocols showed a negative, albeit weak, correlation with cortisol, hair cortisol levels may not provide a long term indicator for stress in dairy cattle, or alternatively, that the protocols might not yield valid indices for cow welfare. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Article
Influences on Infrared Thermography of the Canine Eye in Relation to the Stress and Arousal of Racing Greyhounds
Animals 2021, 11(1), 103; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010103 - 06 Jan 2021
Viewed by 583
Abstract
Infrared thermography (IRT) can be used to identify stressors associated with greyhound racing procedures. However, factors unrelated to stress may influence measurements. Validation of an eye side (right or left) and a reference point on the eye is required if IRT is to [...] Read more.
Infrared thermography (IRT) can be used to identify stressors associated with greyhound racing procedures. However, factors unrelated to stress may influence measurements. Validation of an eye side (right or left) and a reference point on the eye is required if IRT is to be standardised for industry use. Infrared images of greyhound heads (n = 465) were taken pre-racing and post-racing at three racetracks. Average temperature was recorded at seven different locations on each eye. A multivariate analysis model determined how several factors influenced eye temperature (ET) pre-racing and post-racing. As expected, ET increased after racing, which may be attributed to physical exertion, stress and arousal. The right eye and lacrimal caruncle had the highest sensitivity to temperature changes and could be considered reference points for future studies. Additionally, dogs that raced later had higher ET, and Richmond racetrack had the lowest pre-race ET, but the highest post-race ET. This may suggest that arousal increases as the race meet progresses and certain track attributes could increase stress. Furthermore, ET increased as humidity increased, and higher post-race ET was associated with light-coloured, young and low-performing dogs. Environmental and biological factors need to be considered if IRT is to become accurate in the detection of canine stress and monitoring of greyhound welfare. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Article
Iceberg Indicators for Animal Welfare in Rural Sheep Farms Using the Five Domains Model Approach
Animals 2020, 10(12), 2273; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10122273 - 02 Dec 2020
Viewed by 714
Abstract
Animal welfare for sheep in extensive rural farms is difficult to quantify among rural farmers due to several factors, including the lack of technology and the low level of interaction they have with the animals. The purpose of this study was to search [...] Read more.
Animal welfare for sheep in extensive rural farms is difficult to quantify among rural farmers due to several factors, including the lack of technology and the low level of interaction they have with the animals. The purpose of this study was to search for animal-based iceberg indicators using the Five Domains Model approach and study the relationship between sheep reactive behavior (flight distance), sheep handling training and farmers job satisfaction. Thirteen extensive commercial dual-purpose sheep farms (n = 520 animals) were evaluated in Marulanda, Caldas (Colombia, South America). On-farm Animal Welfare Indicators (AWIN) were assessed using an adapted version of this protocol. Socio-demographic characteristics, sheep handling training and job satisfaction were evaluated using a structured interview. Blood and stool samples were taken to determine Fecal Egg Count and Packed Cell Volume. Bivariate regression models were used to find animal-based indicators that predicted Nutrition, Ambience, Health and Behavior welfare domains, and a Qualitative Behavior Analysis was used for mind state domain analysis. Body condition score (BCS) (p = 0.001), fleece cleanliness (p = 0.03), FAMACHA© Score (p = 0.05), and flight distance in meters (p = 0.19) were found to be indicators, and were useful for predicting overall welfare assessment (R2 = 0.85) on theses farms. Regarding mind welfare domain, Qualitative Behavioral Assessment found two principal components (PC) that explained 82% and 67% of the variance, and described emotional valence and energy levels of sheep, respectively. Sheep handling training (β = −8.75, p = 0.004) and job satisfaction (β = −7.5, p = 0.013) had a negative association with the average flock flight distance. Spearman’s rank correlations were significant (p < 0.001) between Fecal Egg Count, Packed Cell Volume, FAMACHA© Score (FS), Body Weight (BW) and, BCS. The strongest association was observed between Packed Cell Volume (PCV) and Fecal Egg Count (FEC) (r = −0.43), also FS was correlated with PCV (r = −0.28) and FEC (r = 0.21), and BCS was correlated with weight (r = 0.32). We suggest that these animal-based indicators could be useful as iceberg indicators for extensive sheep production systems and may set the ground for more research in small extensive sheep farms to develop strategies to find welfare problems and solutions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Article
Using Zoo Welfare Assessments to Identify Common Issues in Developing Country Zoos
Animals 2020, 10(11), 2101; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10112101 - 12 Nov 2020
Viewed by 1760
Abstract
Zoo animal welfare is a high priority for many institutions worldwide, with modern zoos now ensuring that animals are housed and cared for to the highest standards. However, in countries where this knowledge is not as available or understood, standards may be lower. [...] Read more.
Zoo animal welfare is a high priority for many institutions worldwide, with modern zoos now ensuring that animals are housed and cared for to the highest standards. However, in countries where this knowledge is not as available or understood, standards may be lower. The aim of this research was to investigate if there were common zoo welfare concerns across developing country zoos. Wild Welfare is a charity working globally to improve welfare for zoo animals and has an independent welfare audit that is carried out before any intervention occurs. The Wild Welfare Audit, consisting of 110 questions, covering nine topics, was completed at 11 zoos in seven developing countries (Brazil, Egypt, Libya, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam) following a Likert scale score (1–3). A principal component analysis was also performed to evaluate the audit questions. The results suggest that common areas of concern were animal behaviour, positive animal mental states and human health and safety. These themes were likely due to the lack knowledge and understanding that may be linked to historical and cultural differences. This research has helped to revise the welfare audit as well as inform future intervention strategies for improving developing country zoo animal welfare. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Article
Changes in Saliva Analytes Associated with Lameness in Cows: A Pilot Study
Animals 2020, 10(11), 2078; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10112078 - 09 Nov 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 554
Abstract
The possible changes in a panel of 21 salivary analytes on a population of cows with lameness before and after treating lameness by hoof trimming were analyzed. Then, the analytes that showed significant changes were studied in a larger population of cows with [...] Read more.
The possible changes in a panel of 21 salivary analytes on a population of cows with lameness before and after treating lameness by hoof trimming were analyzed. Then, the analytes that showed significant changes were studied in a larger population of cows with lameness and compared with healthy cows For this purpose, two groups of cows were made by a specialized veterinarian. One consisted of healthy cows with no external signs of diseases and no hematological or biochemical abnormalities, and showing no signs of lameness according to the numerical rating system of severity (NRS, 5-point scale); and the other composed of cows showing only lameness with a NRS of 3.1 ± 0.87 and a lesion scoring system (LSS, 4-point scale) of 3.3 ± 0.89. Both groups did not differ in parity (p = 0.140), days in milk (DIM) (p = 0.780), and body condition score (BCS) (p = 0.074). Initially, 21 biochemical analytes were determined in the saliva of six cows with lameness at the diagnosis time (T0) and twenty days after hoof trimming that successfully solved the lameness (TF). This exploratory study only showed significantly higher values in lipase (Lip) and total esterase (TEA) at T0 compared to TF (p < 0.001 and p = 0.034, respectively). When both analytes were measured in the additional five lame cows and the results of all the animals of the lame group (n = 11) were compared with the healthy group (n = 11), only TEA showed higher activities in the group of lame cows than healthy cows (p = 0.004). TEA was positively correlated with both NRS and LSS (r = 0.43, p = 0.004 and r = 0.35, p = 0.003). In conclusion, this study showed that cows with lameness in our experimental conditions had higher TEA values than healthy cows, and these values decreased after treatment. This is a pilot study, and further studies using a larger population of cows with lameness due to different causes and severity should be performed to determine the potential of TEA as a biomarker of lameness in cows. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Article
Varying Opinions about Animal Welfare in the Australian Live Export Industry: A Survey
Animals 2020, 10(10), 1864; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101864 - 13 Oct 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 568
Abstract
There is significant public interest in the Australian live animal export industry and a need to develop a program that can measure and monitor animal welfare throughout the supply chain. An online survey of stakeholder opinions of this industry and animal welfare measures [...] Read more.
There is significant public interest in the Australian live animal export industry and a need to develop a program that can measure and monitor animal welfare throughout the supply chain. An online survey of stakeholder opinions of this industry and animal welfare measures was carried out in 2015 with 921 respondents: 30% from the public who identified as animal welfare advocates (AWAs); 44% from the public who did not identify as AWAs (general public; GP); 26% live export industry (LEI) workers. AWA and GP respondents expressed greater concern than LEI respondents for animal welfare throughout the supply chain but had less concern for animals at Australian feedlots than in other parts of the supply chain. The majority of AWA and GP respondents believed data collected on animal welfare should be made public and should be collected by independent welfare officers and used to regulate the industry and impose penalties for poor welfare. LEI workers believed that data should be confidential, collected by LEI workers and used by the industry to self-regulate. AWA and GP respondents rated the importance and practicality of a number of welfare indicators greater than LEI workers, while respondents shared an analogous view of the importance and practicality of these indicators. Results can be used to develop welfare assessments that ensure a better understanding between industry members and those not in the industry, while facilitating welfare improvements and promoting greater transparency for the live export industry. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Article
Reliability of the Mouse Grimace Scale in C57BL/6JRj Mice
Animals 2020, 10(9), 1648; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091648 - 14 Sep 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 734
Abstract
To maintain and foster the welfare of laboratory mice, tools that reliably measure the current state of the animals are applied in clinical assessment. One of these is the Mouse Grimace Scale (MGS), a coding system for facial expression analysis. Since there are [...] Read more.
To maintain and foster the welfare of laboratory mice, tools that reliably measure the current state of the animals are applied in clinical assessment. One of these is the Mouse Grimace Scale (MGS), a coding system for facial expression analysis. Since there are concerns about the objectivity of the MGS, we further investigated its reliability. Four observers (two experienced and two inexperienced in use of the MGS) scored 188 images of 33 female and 31 male C57BL/6JRj mice. Images were generated prior to, 150 min, and two days after ketamine/xylazine anesthesia. The intraclass correlations coefficient (ICC = 0.851) indicated good agreement on total MGS scores between all observers when all three time points were included in the analysis. However, interrater reliability was higher in the early post-anesthetic period (ICC = 0.799) than at baseline (ICC = 0.556) and on day 2 after anesthesia (ICC = 0.329). The best agreement was achieved for orbital tightening, and the poorest agreement for nose and cheek bulge, depending on the observers’ experience levels. In general, experienced observers produced scores of higher consistency when compared to inexperienced. Against this background, we critically discuss factors that potentially influence the reliability of MGS scoring. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Article
Testing an Animal Welfare Assessment Protocol for Growing-Rabbits Reared for Meat Production Based on the Welfare Quality Approach
Animals 2020, 10(8), 1415; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10081415 - 13 Aug 2020
Viewed by 961
Abstract
The objective of the present study is to present an animal welfare assessment protocol for growing-rabbits for discussion after its implementation in 32 farms from Spain and Portugal. The protocol comprises the principles of Good Feeding, Good Housing, Good Health and Appropriate Behaviour [...] Read more.
The objective of the present study is to present an animal welfare assessment protocol for growing-rabbits for discussion after its implementation in 32 farms from Spain and Portugal. The protocol comprises the principles of Good Feeding, Good Housing, Good Health and Appropriate Behaviour of the Welfare Quality protocols and includes 36 welfare parameters. Overall, the protocol showed a good capacity for discrimination between farms, with scores ranging 44 to 82 points. The protocol seems reliable for the assessment of animal welfare after proper training of auditors. However, for the criteria social behaviour and other behaviours, further research is needed to ascertain if the methodology and times of observation used are appropriate. Some farms had high mortality rates with a low prevalence of health problems, while others had low mortality rates with high prevalence of health problems due to different managements of culling. The protocol should be improved, to impede farms with high mortality rates but a low prevalence of health issues the day of the audit from obtaining better scores than the second type of farms, by limiting the compensation in key measures. The main points to be solved in the growing-rabbit farms were: to provide more space to the animals; register the number of animals culled accurately; change cervical dislocation for another killing method and provide the farmers training in animal welfare. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Article
Preliminary Findings on a Novel Behavioural Approach for the Assessment of Pain and Analgesia in Lambs Subject to Routine Husbandry Procedures
Animals 2020, 10(7), 1148; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10071148 - 07 Jul 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 665
Abstract
The identification and assessment of pain in sheep under field conditions are important, but, due to their stoic nature, are fraught with many challenges. In Australia, various husbandry procedures that are documented to cause pain are routinely performed at lamb marking, including ear [...] Read more.
The identification and assessment of pain in sheep under field conditions are important, but, due to their stoic nature, are fraught with many challenges. In Australia, various husbandry procedures that are documented to cause pain are routinely performed at lamb marking, including ear tagging, castration, mulesing, and tail docking. This study evaluated the validity of a novel methodology to assess pain in lambs: qualitative behavioural assessment (QBA) was used to compare the behavioural expression of control lambs (CONTROL) with that of lambs subject to these procedures that received either a saline placebo 15 min before procedures (PLACEBO), or were administered meloxicam 15 min before procedures in addition to the standard analgesic Tri-Solfen at the time of procedures, as per the manufacturer’s recommendations (ANALGESIC TREATMENT; AT). In terms of behavioural expression, it was expected that: CONTROL ≠ PLACEBO, AT = CONTROL, and PLACEBO ≠ AT. Video footage of the 6−8-week-old lambs (n = 10 for each treatment) was captured approximately 1.5 h postprocedure and was presented, in a random order, to 19 observers for assessment using the Free-Choice Profiling (FCP) approach to QBA. There was significant consensus (p < 0.001) among the observers in their assessment of the lambs, with two main dimensions of behavioural expression explaining 69.2% of the variation. As expected, observers perceived differences in the demeanour of lambs in the first dimension, scoring all lambs subject to the routine husbandry procedures as significantly more ‘dull’ and ‘uneasy’ compared to the control lambs (p < 0.05). Contrary to expectations, the results also suggested that analgesic treatment did not provide relief at the time of observation. Further investigations to validate the relationship between behavioural expression scores and pain are necessary, but these results suggest that painful husbandry procedures alter the behavioural expression of lambs and these differences can be captured using QBA methodology. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Article
Use of a Tri-Axial Accelerometer Can Reliably Detect Play Behaviour in Newborn Calves
Animals 2020, 10(7), 1137; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10071137 - 05 Jul 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 770
Abstract
Traditionally, the welfare assessment of farm animals has focused on health and production outcomes. Positive welfare is, however, not merely the absence of negative welfare and is an important part of a life worth living. Play behaviour is widely considered to be an [...] Read more.
Traditionally, the welfare assessment of farm animals has focused on health and production outcomes. Positive welfare is, however, not merely the absence of negative welfare and is an important part of a life worth living. Play behaviour is widely considered to be an indicator of positive emotions because it is a “luxury” behaviour. Direct visual observation is considered the most accurate method of behavioural analysis, but it is time consuming and laborious. There is increasing interest in the use of remote monitoring technology to quantify behaviour. We compared the data output (“motion index” (MI)) from a commercially available tri-axial accelerometer fitted to newborn dairy calves to video footage of the same calves, with a focus on play behaviour. The motion index values over 48 h were positively correlated with both the duration of play behaviour and the number of play bouts. The motion index threshold in each sample interval with the optimal sensitivity and specificity for the identification of play behaviour was MI ≥ 2.5 at a 1 min resolution (sensitivity (Se) = 98.0%; specificity (Sp) = 92.9%) and MI ≥ 24.5 at a 15 min resolution (Se = 98.0%; Sp = 89.9%), but these values consistently overestimated the overall proportion of sample intervals in which play was observed. The MI that best reflected the results obtained from visual one-zero sampling was MI ≥ 23 for 1 min intervals and MI ≥ 62 for 15 min intervals—this may therefore be the basis of a more conservative approach to the identification of play behaviour from accelerometer-generated data. Our results indicate that accelerometer-generated data can usefully indicate the amount of play behaviour shown by newborn calves for up to 48 h, providing an efficient method for identifying this important parameter in future work. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Article
Welfare Assessment for Captive Anseriformes: A Guide for Practitioners and Animal Keepers
Animals 2020, 10(7), 1132; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10071132 - 03 Jul 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2627
Abstract
Welfare assessment is a tool to both identify welfare challenges and to evidence where current husbandry practices support positive welfare outcomes. Such tools are becoming more available and can be amended based on the nature of the facility and needs of taxonomic groups. [...] Read more.
Welfare assessment is a tool to both identify welfare challenges and to evidence where current husbandry practices support positive welfare outcomes. Such tools are becoming more available and can be amended based on the nature of the facility and needs of taxonomic groups. Currently, welfare assessment has a strong mammalian theme, and some behavioural measures of welfare commonly applied to mammals do not translate well for other taxa. This paper provides a method for welfare assessment of Anseriformes; widely housed, diverse bird species kept under a range of management styles. A mixture of resource-based (i.e., determination of aspects of the physical environment or the bird’s physical appearance or activity) and animal-based (i.e., observations that equate to a bird’s feelings or personality characteristics) measures are integrated to enable a full review of potential predictors of welfare. The method provides a rapid and valid way for all personnel to collect information that evaluates quality-of-life experiences of the Anseriformes under their care. Explanations of key terminology are provided to enable repeatable and reliable assessment for all persons using the tool. Suggestions for follow-up actions are provided to emphasise why the welfare assessment process needs to be one of continual re-evaluation of animal care. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Article
Validation of Contact Mats to Monitor Dairy Cow Contact with Stall Partitions
Animals 2020, 10(6), 999; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10060999 - 08 Jun 2020
Viewed by 842
Abstract
In indoor housing systems, repetitive contact with the stall partitions may reflect issues between the housing environment and the cow, by reducing the quality of rest and hindering ease of movement. The objective of this study was to validate the ability of a [...] Read more.
In indoor housing systems, repetitive contact with the stall partitions may reflect issues between the housing environment and the cow, by reducing the quality of rest and hindering ease of movement. The objective of this study was to validate the ability of a contact mat (CM) system to monitor cow contact with stall dividers and neck rail when compared to video observation. Eleven lactating cows were monitored using video recording and with the CM system for 4 h/d for 4 consecutive days. CM were affixed to the stall dividers and neck rail to record the frequency of cow contact per second. Two observers recorded the frequency of cow contact against the stall partitions per second using three criteria: cow contact with the stall dividers or neck rail regardless of CM contact (Total Rail Contact), cow contact with the CM regardless of placement or force (Total CM Contact), and cow contact with the CM through proper placement and force (Effective CM Contact). The correlation strength used to measure agreement between video observation and CM system for cow ranking based on degree of contact varied from moderate to very high (dividers: Total Rail Contact: rs = 0.68, Total CM Contact rs = 0.90, Effective CM Contact rs = 0.90; neck rail: Total Rail Contact: rs = 0.71, Total CM Contact rs = 0.66, Effective CM Contact rs = 0.58). CM can be used to accurately rank cows based on their frequency of contact with the stall dividers. This can be used to identify individual cows that need intervention for stall comfort risk factors, or to assess which indoor housing environments offer fewer constraints and better movement opportunities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Article
Animal-Based Measures for the On-Farm Welfare Assessment of Geese
Animals 2020, 10(5), 890; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10050890 - 20 May 2020
Viewed by 896
Abstract
Currently, no specific animal-based measures (ABMs) protocols are available for geese in commercial meat production systems. Following a critical review of the literature and consultation of experts, seven ABMs, potentially valid and feasible for the on-farm welfare assessment of geese, were identified and [...] Read more.
Currently, no specific animal-based measures (ABMs) protocols are available for geese in commercial meat production systems. Following a critical review of the literature and consultation of experts, seven ABMs, potentially valid and feasible for the on-farm welfare assessment of geese, were identified and then tested in 12 farms in Poland to assess their inter-observer reliability. Two observers conducted the assessment, which was divided into two phases. First, a handling test assessed the human–animal relationship (HAR), and a 100% inter-observer reliability was achieved by the observers when evaluating the attitudes of stockpeople and the reactions of geese to humans. Next, an animal inspection was conducted, and the observers simultaneously and independently visually evaluated 100 randomly selected geese per farm and assessed whether the selected ABMs could be identified. In terms of inter-observer reliability, high correlation coefficients were found for plumage dirtiness (ρ = 0.745; p < 0.01), twisted wings (ρ = 0.890; p < 0.001), and broken/twisted wings (ρ = 0.858; p < 0.001). The results showed that plumage dirtiness, twisted wings, and broken/twisted wings are valid and reliable measures. Further research should address the reliability of ABMs of geese in other types of production systems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
Article
Using Passive Infrared Detectors to Record Group Activity and Activity in Certain Focus Areas in Fattening Pigs
Animals 2020, 10(5), 792; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10050792 - 03 May 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 940
Abstract
Animal behavior is an important aspect in the assessment of animal welfare. Passive infrared detectors (PID), detecting thermal changes to measure activity, have already been used to record data on the behavior of groups of animals. Within this study, the suitability of these [...] Read more.
Animal behavior is an important aspect in the assessment of animal welfare. Passive infrared detectors (PID), detecting thermal changes to measure activity, have already been used to record data on the behavior of groups of animals. Within this study, the suitability of these detectors for the collection of activity profiles for focused areas is further investigated. The aim was to record the activity of a group of eleven fattening pigs in a pen, as well as the activity in the five functional areas for resting, feeding, drinking, exploration, and elimination. In order to evaluate the data obtained, the behavior was video recorded for visual assessment. In addition, relevant indoor environment parameters were recorded (ammonia, air temperature, and relative humidity). For the measurement of activity by PID, strong correlations from up to r = 0.87 (p < 0.01) could be found compared to visual assessment. The results indicate that activity changes during the day and activity in defined functional areas can be recorded using PIDs. These data combined with data of climate-related sensors could serve the farmer as a monitoring tool for early detection of behavioral changes or serve as partial aspect within a Weak Point Analysis within external on-farm consulting. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Article
Grazing Cow Behavior’s Association with Mild and Moderate Lameness
Animals 2020, 10(4), 661; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10040661 - 11 Apr 2020
Viewed by 801
Abstract
Accelerometer-based mobility scoring has focused on cow behaviors such as lying and walking. Accuracy levels as high as 91% have been previously reported. However, there has been limited replication of results. Here, measures previously identified as indicative of mobility, such as lying bouts [...] Read more.
Accelerometer-based mobility scoring has focused on cow behaviors such as lying and walking. Accuracy levels as high as 91% have been previously reported. However, there has been limited replication of results. Here, measures previously identified as indicative of mobility, such as lying bouts and walking time, were examined. On a research farm and a commercial farm, 63 grazing cows’ behavior was monitored in four trials (16, 16, 16, and 15 cows) using leg-worn accelerometers. Seventeen good mobility (score 0), 23 imperfect mobility (score 1), and 22 mildly impaired mobility (score 2) cows were monitored. Only modest associations with activity, standing, and lying events were found. Thus, behavior monitoring appears to be insufficient to discern mildly and moderately impaired mobility of grazing cows. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Article
Comparison of Chinese Broiler Production Systems in Economic Performance and Animal Welfare
Animals 2020, 10(3), 491; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10030491 - 15 Mar 2020
Viewed by 815
Abstract
Both proper animal welfare and economic benefit are important to the broiler industry, so it is better to consider these two factors together. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between economic benefit and animal welfare in different production systems [...] Read more.
Both proper animal welfare and economic benefit are important to the broiler industry, so it is better to consider these two factors together. The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between economic benefit and animal welfare in different production systems of white-feathered broilers in China. Based on the Welfare Quality Assessment (WQA) protocol for poultry, the authors compared and evaluated the results of the Welfare Quality model (WQM) and the deterministic model. The present study conducted welfare evaluations and investigations on 66 broiler chicken flocks on 52 farms in China. These flocks included three types: the net floor system (NFS), the normal cage system (NCS), and the high standard cage system (HCS). In terms of economy, the results were in line with high economic input, high output, and high profit. In terms of animal welfare assessment, the authors calculated the welfare scores per measure and the attributional WQ scores and WQ index scores of each production systems. The results showed that nine welfare measures from four welfare criteria presented different trends in the three production systems. WQ index scores were 778.24 ± 29.45, 691.09 ± 32.97, and 669.82 ± 22.79, respectively. According to Chow test results, significant differences were found between WQ index scores and total cost and profit (all p < 0.01). In conclusion, with the development of white-feathered broiler production in China, from the conventional system to the latest system, both cost and economic profit have been increased, but the welfare score has been decreased. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Article
Equid Assessment, Research and Scoping (EARS): The Development and Implementation of a New Equid Welfare Assessment and Monitoring Tool
Animals 2020, 10(2), 297; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10020297 - 13 Feb 2020
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 1518
Abstract
The assessment of animal welfare poses numerous challenges, yet an emerging approach is the consolidation of existing knowledge into new frameworks which can offer standardised approaches to welfare assessment across a variety of contexts. Multiple tools exist for measuring the welfare of equids, [...] Read more.
The assessment of animal welfare poses numerous challenges, yet an emerging approach is the consolidation of existing knowledge into new frameworks which can offer standardised approaches to welfare assessment across a variety of contexts. Multiple tools exist for measuring the welfare of equids, but such tools have typically been developed for specific contexts. There is no ‘one size fits all’ which means that resulting datasets are generally non-comparable, creating a barrier to knowledge-sharing and collaboration between the many organisations working to improve equid welfare around the globe. To address this, we developed the Equid Assessment, Research and Scoping (EARS) tool, which incorporates pre-existing validated welfare assessment methods alongside new welfare indicators to deliver a larger and more comprehensive series of welfare indicators than currently exists, creating a single resource that can be used to assess equid welfare in any context. We field-trialled three welfare assessment protocols within the EARS tool, and applied these to welfare assessment of equids in a variety of contexts across nineteen countries. The EARS tool proved a useful, versatile and rapid method for collecting welfare assessment data and we collected 7464 welfare assessments in a period of fifteen months. We evaluate the EARS tool and provide ideas for future development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Article
Assessing the Preference of Rabbit Does to Social Contact or Seclusion: Results of Different Investigations
Animals 2020, 10(2), 286; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10020286 - 12 Feb 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 683
Abstract
The aim of this study was to verify the motivation of rabbit does to social contact or seclusion. The results of two different research activities assessed in Italy (experiment 1) and Germany (experiment 2) through the use of motivational cages are reported. In [...] Read more.
The aim of this study was to verify the motivation of rabbit does to social contact or seclusion. The results of two different research activities assessed in Italy (experiment 1) and Germany (experiment 2) through the use of motivational cages are reported. In experiment 1, only the average time of occupation of the group or seclusion zone was recorded of four nulliparous does, while, in experiment 2, the group-housing system provided space for does with kits and consisted of four single areas (nest boxes with individual electronic nest box recognition systems). Experiment 1 showed that does spent a similar amount of time in seclusion or in group (49.61% vs 50.39%, respectively). On the contrary, in experiment 2, does with kits appeared to prefer spending time alone (71.90%) rather than in groups. The presence of kits probably stimulates a hierarchical and aggressive response of the dominant does, with the low-ranking does staying secluded to avoid violent interactions. In fact, in each reproductive cycle, one doe did stay in the group area whereas the other three does used this area in different percentages of time. Further researches are needed to find a good combination of the cage with the does’ physiological phases. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Review

Jump to: Research, Other

Review
Abattoir-Based Measures to Assess Swine Welfare: Analysis of the Methods Adopted in European Slaughterhouses
Animals 2021, 11(1), 226; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11010226 - 18 Jan 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 652
Abstract
The assessment of swine welfare requires feasible, reliable, and reasonable indicators. On-farm evaluation of pig welfare can provide valuable information to veterinarians and farmers. However, such protocols can result expensive and time-consuming. With this regard, an interest in the appraisal of swine welfare [...] Read more.
The assessment of swine welfare requires feasible, reliable, and reasonable indicators. On-farm evaluation of pig welfare can provide valuable information to veterinarians and farmers. However, such protocols can result expensive and time-consuming. With this regard, an interest in the appraisal of swine welfare at abattoir has grown over the recent years. In particular, the use of certain lesions collected directly from slaughtered animals to determine the welfare status of pigs has been evaluated by several authors. In the present review, the different methods developed to score lesions collected directly from the body and the viscera of animals slaughtered in European abattoirs (“abattoir-based measures”) are presented. The text specifically focuses on the methods currently available in the literature for the scoring of body, pluck and gastric lesions during post-mortem activities. Moreover, the strengths and weaknesses of abattoir-based measures schemes are discussed. To conclude, the future perspectives of the assessment of pig welfare at the slaughterhouse are described, appealing for a benchmarking system that can be systematically used by veterinarians and other professional figures involved in the process. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
Review
Organic Dairy Cattle: Do European Union Regulations Promote Animal Welfare?
Animals 2020, 10(10), 1786; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101786 - 01 Oct 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1493
Abstract
Animal welfare is an emerging concept in EU law; with the advent of specific regulations intending to protect animals. The approach taken by European lawmakers is to provide “minimum standards” for conventional farming; argued by some as failing to adequately protect animals. In [...] Read more.
Animal welfare is an emerging concept in EU law; with the advent of specific regulations intending to protect animals. The approach taken by European lawmakers is to provide “minimum standards” for conventional farming; argued by some as failing to adequately protect animals. In contrast, the EU organic farming regulations aim to “establish a sustainable management system for agriculture” and promote “high animal welfare standards”. The first aim of this review was to identify key areas where there are clear improvements in quality of life for dairy cattle housed under the EU organic regulations when compared to the conventional EU regulations. Using the available scientific evidence, our second aim was to identify areas where the organic regulations fail to provide clear guidance in their pursuit to promote high standards of dairy cattle welfare. The greater emphasis placed on natural living conditions, the ban of some (but unfortunately not all) physical mutilations combined with clearer recommendations regarding housing conditions potentially position the organic dairy industry to achieve high standards of welfare. However, improvements in some sections are needed given that the regulations are often conveyed using vague language, provide exceptions or remain silent on some aspects. This review provides a critical reflection of some of these key areas related to on-farm aspects. To a lesser extent, post farm gate aspects are also discussed Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Review
Methods of Assessment of the Welfare of Shelter Cats: A Review
Animals 2020, 10(9), 1527; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10091527 - 28 Aug 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1434
Abstract
At any moment, there are millions of cats housed in foster care facilities for abandoned and stray animals for various reasons worldwide. Care, management and regulation among these facilities differ. Moreover, shelters can never substitute the full comfort of a good home for [...] Read more.
At any moment, there are millions of cats housed in foster care facilities for abandoned and stray animals for various reasons worldwide. Care, management and regulation among these facilities differ. Moreover, shelters can never substitute the full comfort of a good home for the animal, and the welfare of cats in shelters is a subject of discussion in many respects. Cats are animals sensitive to changes; for most of them, placement in a shelter is a stressful experience because of changes in routine, environment and the presence of other animals. Stress is reflected in changes in behaviour, causes fluctuations in physiological values and disrupts the immune system, which is a predisposition to the development or reactivation of disease. Evaluation of the presence and intensity of negative impacts is possible through the use of evaluation tools based on indicators that help set the environment and management of keeping so as to disrupt the quality of life as little as possible. Although a comprehensive and valid welfare tool that would evaluate animal-based and at the same time resource-based (or management-based) indicators of cats in shelters is not currently available, it is possible to use partial evaluation of individual welfare indicators to assess welfare. This review aims to provide the readers with an insight into current options of assessment of the welfare of cats in shelters with an emphasis on behavioural, physiological and health indicators with an application in both practical and scientific contexts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
Review
Beyond Glucocorticoids: Integrating Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) into Animal Welfare Research
Animals 2020, 10(8), 1381; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10081381 - 09 Aug 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1488
Abstract
Animal welfare researchers are committed to identifying novel measures for enhancing the quality of life of individual animals. Recently, welfare scientists have emphasized the need for tracking multiple indicators of an animal’s behavioral, emotional and mental health. Researchers are currently focused on integrating [...] Read more.
Animal welfare researchers are committed to identifying novel measures for enhancing the quality of life of individual animals. Recently, welfare scientists have emphasized the need for tracking multiple indicators of an animal’s behavioral, emotional and mental health. Researchers are currently focused on integrating non-invasive physiological biomarkers to gain insight into an individual’s welfare status. Most commonly, the animal welfare community has analyzed glucocorticoid hormones and their metabolites as a measure of stress. While glucocorticoids provide valuable information about hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis activity, there are limitations to utilizing these hormones as the sole measure of long-term stress and welfare. Other biomarkers, such as dehydroepiandrosterone and its sulfate ester—collectively referred to as DHEA(S)—help provide a more complete picture of HPA activity. DHEA(S) counteracts the effects glucocorticoids by having anti-aging, immune-enhancing and neuroprotective properties. Recent studies have examined the ratio of glucocorticoids to DHEA(S) as a way to better understand how the HPA axis is functioning. There is evidence that this ratio serves as an indicator of immune function, mental health, cognitive performance and overall welfare. We review studies that employed the glucocorticoid:DHEA(S) ratio, outline methodological considerations and discuss how researchers can integrate glucocorticoids, DHEA(S) and the glucocorticoid:DHEA(S) ratio into welfare assessments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Review
Review of Livestock Welfare Indicators Relevant for the Australian Live Export Industry
Animals 2020, 10(7), 1236; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10071236 - 21 Jul 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1233
Abstract
Animal welfare is an important issue for the live export industry (LEI), in terms of economic returns, community attitudes and international socio-political relations. Mortality has traditionally been the main welfare measure recorded within the LEI; however, high mortality incidents are usually acted upon [...] Read more.
Animal welfare is an important issue for the live export industry (LEI), in terms of economic returns, community attitudes and international socio-political relations. Mortality has traditionally been the main welfare measure recorded within the LEI; however, high mortality incidents are usually acted upon after adverse events occur, reducing the scope for proactive welfare enhancement. We reviewed 71 potential animal welfare measures, identifying those measures that would be appropriate for use throughout the LEI for feeder and slaughter livestock species, and categorised these as animal-, environment- and resource-based. We divided the live export supply chain into three sectors: (1) Australian facilities, (2) vessel and (3) destination country facilities. After reviewing the relevant regulations for each sector of the industry, we identified 38 (sector 1), 35 (sector 2) and 26 (sector 3) measures already being collected under current practice. These could be used to form a ‘welfare information dashboard’: a LEI-specific online interface for collecting data that could contribute towards standardised industry reporting. We identified another 20, 25 and 28 measures that are relevant to each LEI sector (sectors 1, 2, 3, respectively), and that could be developed and integrated into a benchmarking system in the future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Review
Behavioral Methods for Severity Assessment
Animals 2020, 10(7), 1136; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10071136 - 03 Jul 2020
Viewed by 1194
Abstract
It has become mandatory for the application for allowance of animal experimentation to rate the severity of the experimental procedures. In order to minimize suffering related to animal experimentation it is therefore crucial to develop appropriate methods for the assessment of animal suffering. [...] Read more.
It has become mandatory for the application for allowance of animal experimentation to rate the severity of the experimental procedures. In order to minimize suffering related to animal experimentation it is therefore crucial to develop appropriate methods for the assessment of animal suffering. Physiological parameters such as hormones or body weight are used to assess stress in laboratory animals. However, such physiological parameters alone are often difficult to interpret and leave a wide scope for interpretation. More recently, behavior, feelings and emotions have come increasingly into the focus of welfare research. Tests like preference tests or cognitive bias tests give insight on how animals evaluate certain situations or objects, how they feel and what their emotional state is. These methods should be combined in order to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the well-being of laboratory animals. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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Other

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Brief Report
Pronounced Inter-Individual Variation in Plasma Cortisol Response to Fluoxetine Hydrochloride in the Pig
Animals 2020, 10(3), 504; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10030504 - 18 Mar 2020
Viewed by 749
Abstract
Animal welfare assessment requires measures for positive affective state. Pharmacological agents that manipulate affective state can be used to evaluate novel biomarkers for affective state assessment. However, to validate that an agent has modified brain function, a reliable indicator is required. Circulating cortisol [...] Read more.
Animal welfare assessment requires measures for positive affective state. Pharmacological agents that manipulate affective state can be used to evaluate novel biomarkers for affective state assessment. However, to validate that an agent has modified brain function, a reliable indicator is required. Circulating cortisol has been used as a reporter for effective delivery of the antidepressant selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) fluoxetine hydrochloride to the brain in humans and sheep. Here, we tested cortisol as a reporter for effective delivery of fluoxetine hydrochloride to the pig brain. We hypothesized that following administration of SSRI, innervation of the serotonergic reward pathway would result in activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, leading to increased circulating cortisol levels. Large White-Landrace gilts received either a single intravenous dose of 100 mg fluoxetine hydrochloride suspended in 10 mL saline (n = 4), or 10 mL saline alone (n = 4). Blood samples were collected every 15 min for one hour prior to, and six hours post-treatment. The interaction of treatment x time on mean plasma cortisol levels between 15–165 min post-treatment was significant (p = 0.048) with highest cortisol concentrations of SSRI treated pigs versus controls (+ 98%) at 135 min post-treatment. However, individual cortisol profiles after SSRI treatment revealed high inter-individual variation in response. We conclude that, while combined data imply that plasma cortisol may be a readout for SSRI efficacy, inter-individual variation in SSRI response may preclude application of this approach in the pig. Given the current limited sample size, further research to confirm these findings is needed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Development and Assessment of Animal Welfare Indicators)
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