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Feasibility and reliability of the AWIN welfare assessment protocol for dairy goats in semi-extensive farming conditions

By M. Battini, M. Renna, M. Giammarino, L. Battaglini, S. Mattiello

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The aim of this study was to test the feasibility and reliability of the Animal Welfare Indicators (AWIN) protocol for welfare assessment of dairy goats when applied to semi-extensive farming conditions. We recruited 13 farms located in the NW Italian Alps where three assessors individually and independently applied a modified version of the AWIN welfare assessment protocol for goats integrated with some indicators derived from the AWIN welfare assessment protocol for sheep. The applied protocol consisted of nine individual-level (body condition score, hair coat condition, abscesses, overgrown claws, udder asymmetry, fecal soiling, nasal discharge, ocular discharge, and improper disbudding) and seven group-level (severe lameness, Qualitative Behavior Assessment-QBA, thermal stress, oblivion, Familiar Human Approach Test-FHAT, synchrony at grazing, synchrony at resting) animal-based indicators. On most farms, the level of welfare was good. Many of the considered welfare problems (overgrown claws, fecal soiling, discharges, and thermal stress) were never recorded. However, oblivion, severe lameness, hair coat condition and abscesses were detected on some farms, with percentages ranging from 5 to 35%. The mean percentage of animals with normal body condition was 67.9 5.7. The level of synchronization during resting was on average low (14.3 7.2%). The application of the whole protocol required more than 4 h/farm and 3 min/goat. The inter-observer reliability varied from excellent (udder asymmetry, overgrown claws, discharges, synchrony at resting, use of shelter) to acceptable (abscesses, fecal soiling, and oblivion), but insufficient for hair coat condition, improper disbudding, synchrony at grazing, QBA. Differences in background of the assessors and feasibility constraints (i.e., use of binoculars in unfenced pastures, individual-level assessment conducted during the morning milking in narrow and dark pens, difficulties when using the scan and instantaneous sampling method due to the high number of animals that moved at the same time) can affect the reliability of data collection. Extensive training seems necessary for properly scoring animals when applying the QBA, whereas the FHAT to evaluate the Human-Animal Relationship of goats at pasture seems promising but needs to be validated. Indicators that evaluate the synchrony of activities require to be validated to identify the best moment to perform the observations during the day.

Publication Title Frontiers in Veterinary Science
Volume 7
Issue October
DOI 10.3389/fvets.2021.731927
Author Address Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences-Production, Landscape, Agroenergy, University of Milan, Milan,
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Agriculture
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animals
  4. Animal welfare
  5. Biodiversity
  6. Body condition
  7. Bovidae
  8. Capra
  9. Cattle
  10. Claw
  11. Dairy animals
  12. Dehorning
  13. Diseases and injuries of animals
  14. Ecology
  15. Environmental research
  16. Extension
  17. Feasibility
  18. Goats
  19. Grasslands and rangelands
  20. Hair
  21. Heat stress
  22. Lameness
  23. Mammals
  24. Milk and dairy products
  25. milking
  26. open access
  27. pens
  28. Ruminants
  29. udders
  30. ungulates
  31. vertebrates
  32. Veterinary sciences
  1. open access