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Institute of

OF Organic Farming


Animal welfare competence – animal welfare-oriented occupational competence in vocational education

© BOKU, Wien und FNT, UniKassel

Development of an individual animal welfare-oriented competence to ensure animal well-being– Concepts of teaching and learning in vocational education and training –

Up to now, animal welfare has only been a minor topic in agricultural vocational education. New and innovative concepts of teaching and learning are therefore to be developed, in order to promote a comprehensive animal welfare-oriented competence.

Background and Objective

Animal welfare has been part of the German constitution (Grundgesetz, Article 20a) since 2002. Furthermore, in addition to the Animal Welfare Act, a wide range of regulations and guidelines for animal protection are available at both federal and state level.

Various methods and tools currently exist, which are used for on-farm assessment of animal welfare and also to verify the extent to which housing conditions meet animals’ needs. These tools have already been subject to a feasibility study and are, to a large extent, based on animal-respective resource-based indicators, for example the Guideline ‘Animal Welfare Indicators: Practical Guide - Cattle, Pigs and Poultry’ (KTBL (eds), 1st edition 2016, 2nd, updated edition 2020).

However, for many years, on-farm research has shown that animal welfare does not meet satisfactory levels and that there is a real need for improvement on many farms. Farmers tend to misjudge the animal health and welfare situation on their farms and underestimate, for example, the occurrence of lameness or other production diseases in their herds.

The vocational education of future farmers is a key factor in raising awareness of animal welfare. A proactive and routine assessment of animal welfare indicators on farms, as well as careful observation of livestock, can promote empathy towards animals. However, this topic has so far rarely been included in agricultural vocational education, vocational schools, inter-company training courses, or in agricultural training companies.
To date, there has been minimal investigation into the dissemination and use of existing tools for animal welfare assessment, especially in agricultural training companies. Therefore, we aim to conduct a wide-spread survey on agricultural training farms in Lower Saxony.

The aim of the project is to develop and evaluate concepts of teaching and learning and training materials for the assessment and awareness of animal welfare. Due to the increasingly mechanised and digitalised work involved in livestock farming and the resulting ‘distancing’ from the animal (both literal and figurative), it is crucial that apprentices and trainees are not only made more aware of animal welfare, but also that they develop an occupational competence in this area. Comprehensive knowledge regarding farm animals and their needs, skills in animal handling and an empathetic attitude towards farm animals, could all enhance the level of competence in animal welfare. The ability to act in a reflective and responsible manner across the conflicting areas of economy, (digitalised) technology and animal welfare is crucial to future farming success. 
We will develop innovative concepts of teaching and learning to provide a clear understanding of animal welfare, to improve knowledge regarding the natural behaviour and needs of cattle and pigs, and to enhance skills in the observation and the identification of animal welfare issues.

This project is intended to pique interest, to stimulate a willingness to engage with the topic and to ultimately establish a comprehensive competence in animal welfare.

Target Group

  • livestock and agricultural apprentices and trainees
  • trainers/farmers on agricultural training farms
  • graduates of the master farmer courses


Our project, as set out above, commenced in November 2021, and comprises three partners: 
•    the Agricultural Training Centre in Echem (LBZ Echem – coordination), 
•    the Institute of Vocational Education and Adult Education (IfBE) of the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz University in Hanover, and the 
•    Animal Welfare working group at the Thünen Institute of Organic Farming.

The IfBE will conduct an analysis of the curricula for the vocational training of farmers; they will also interview experts in agricultural vocational education and members of the target groups in an empirical field study in order to identify key factors of job-related socialisation in the above-mentioned target groups. Simultaneously, at the Thünen Institute of Organic Farming, we will conduct a representative survey of the trainers in the agricultural training companies in Lower Saxony to find out whether guidelines for animal welfare, checklists, assessment and monitoring tools for cattle and pigs are widely recognised, and if they are used to raise awareness of animal welfare. In addition, research on existing animal welfare tools and assessments protocols will be carried out. These will then be tested for their suitability as training tools in the context of vocational education. All of this information will be used to develop didactic methods that will foster a positive attitude towards animal welfare in livestock farming and the knowledge gained will be integrated into a new animal welfare training programme at the Agricultural Training and Education Centre in Echem.

Funding Body

  • Federal Ministry of Food und Agriculture (BMEL)
    (national, öffentlich)
  • Federal Office for Agriculture and Food (BLE)
    (national, öffentlich)

This work (Model- and Demonstration Project for animal welfare) is financially supported by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture based on a decision of the Parliament of the Federal Republic of Germany, granted by the Federal Office for Agriculture and Food.


11.2021 - 10.2024

More Information

Project funding number: 2820MDT122
Project status: ongoing


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