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On-farm welfare assessment in cattle: validity, reliability and feasibility issues and future perspectives with special regard to the Welfare QualityReg. approach

By U. Knierim, C. Winckler

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Abstract

This paper discusses the current state of development of on-farm cattle welfare assessment systems with special regard to the approach of Welfare QualityReg. that focuses on animal-related measures. The central criteria validity, reliability and feasibility are considered with regard to selected welfare measures. All welfare measures incorporated into the Welfare QualityReg. protocol possess face validity, but for most of them construct or criterion validity as, eg shown for lameness, have not been demonstrated. Exemplarily the cases of qualitative behaviour assessment and measurement of avoidance distance towards humans or social licking are discussed. Reliability issues have often been neglected in the past and require more thorough investigation and discussion in the future, especially with respect to appropriate test statistics and limits of acceptability. Means of improving reliability are the refinement of definitions or recording methods and training. Consistency of results over time requires further attention, especially if farms are to be certified, based on infrequent recordings. Considering feasibility, time constraints are the main concern for assessment systems that focus seriously on animal-based measures; currently they require several hours of on-farm recordings, eg about 6 h for a herd of 60 dairy cows. The Welfare QualityReg. project has promoted knowledge and discussion about validity, reliability and feasibility issues. Many welfare measures applied in the Welfare QualityReg. on-farm assessment approach can be regarded sufficiently valid, reliable and feasible. However, there are still a considerable number of challenges. They should be tackled while using the present assessment system in order to constantly improve it.

Date 2009
Publication Title Animal Welfare
Volume 18
Issue 4
Pages 451-458
ISBN/ISSN 0962-7286
Language English
Author Address Department of Farm Animal Behaviour and Husbandry, Faculty of Organic Agricultural Science, University of Kassel, Nordbahnhofstr 1 a, 37213 Witzenhausen, Germany. knierim@wiz-uni-kassel.de
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Tags
  1. Animal diseases
  2. Animal rights
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Cattle
  5. Certification
  6. Dairy animals
  7. Education
  8. Feasibility
  9. Lameness
  10. Mammals
  11. Mathematics and statistics
  12. peer-reviewed
  13. Primates
  14. training
Badges
  1. peer-reviewed