Indicators for a Payment-by-Results Approach for Animal Welfare Measures and Organic Farming
According to Eurobarometer surveys, most consumers desire adequate housing and living circumstances for farm animals. But which indicators are most suitable for the measurement of animal welfare and how can animal welfare policies be implemented in a result-oriented way? This research question is adressed by the Thünen-Insitut of Organic Farming and the Thünen-Institut of Farm Economics.
Regulations in organic farming and in animal welfare policies are action-oriented: they refer to resources such as space allowance and management, i.e. access to pasture. With this approach, the prerequisites for the exercise of normal behaviour can be created; but the actual state of animal health and behaviour are largely left out. The aim of our project is to develop a concept for a result-oriented approach to improve animal welfare. One of the challenges is the selection of suitable indicators. Exemplarily for dairy, we will suggest a set of indicators, approved by scientists and practitioners, which address major welfare issues in dairy farming.
To select indicators which address major welfare-problems in dairy farming, we carried out a two-phased sampling process:
First, scientists from Germany, Switzerland and Austria were asked in a written survey to select the most appropriate from a list of 82 indicators derived from literature. The questionnaire was designed as a Delphi survey to reduce heterogeneity among researchers and resulted in a list of 23 indicators.
Then a practitioner-workshop with farmers, lobby groups, administration and control took place to address practicability issues. With great match, a list of 10 indicators was adopted. The selected indicators as well as other animal and resource based indicators, including the Welfare Quality Assessment Protocol for Dairy Cows were collected on 115 dairy farms in Germany.
Further steps were the development and discussion of a of target- and threshold value system for support measures and organic farming.
In addition to the selected indicators, the following information is assembled on the farms:
• the complete WQ protocol
• information from the milk control system (i.e. udder health),
• data (e.g. mortality) from the Identification and Information System for Animals (HIT), and
• resource based indicators for the classification of housing systems (National Assessment Catalogue for Animal Husbandry-NACAH).
In our project, we follow an interdisciplinary approach and apply quantitative and qualitative methods to generate and analyse the empirical data.
Within the framework of the project, 10 indicators were identified for a result-oriented animal welfare support measure for dairy cattle farms. Since the selected indicators relate exclusively to the "health" dimension of animal welfare, a combination of action- and result-oriented elements is recommended for the design of a policy support measure. The action oriented requirements should include, for example, access to pasture, the animal-cubicle ratio and the use of sedation, local anesthetics and analgesics when disbudding/dehorning. In this way, the integration of the three animal welfare dimensions: animal health, animal behaviour and emotional state can be achieved.
The 10 indicators selected for the animal welfare policy measure are:
The share of cows
(1) with clinical lameness,
(2) with carpal / tarsal changes,
(3) which are very lean (body condition score),
(4) with integument alterations,
(5) with broken tails,
(6) which are dirty (cleanliness),
(7) with a milk somatic cell count> 400,000 ml-1,
(8) with a fat protein quotient (FPQ) ≥ 1.5 in the early lactation,
(9) with a FEQ <1,0 and
(10) the mortality of cows.
In the case of action-oriented measures, the payment of support premia requires compliance with the funding requirements. For result-oriented measures, the farmers need to achieve defined target values. On the basis of the indicator values collected on the farms, a target system has been developed, which is illustrated in the figure using the indicator lameness as an example.
When participating in the result-oriented animal welfare support measure the farms should:
In organic farming, instead of a premium system, sanctions could take effect: analogous to the eligibility criteria described, farms with problematic indicator values could be obliged to take part in compulsory counseling or be excluded from ecological labeling.
For the implementation of a combined action- and result-oriented aninal welfare support measure, a scientifically accompanied "trial phase" with a limited number of participating farms is recommended.
9.2012 - 3.2016
Project funding number: 2811NA026
Funding program: Bundesprogramm Ökologischer Landbau und andere Formen nachhaltiger Landwirtschaft (BÖLN)
Project status: finished