On-farm self-assessment of animal welfare - Feasibility of animal welfare indicators in on-farm self-assessment, development of a framework with reference values and technical implementation in digital applications
The German Animal Welfare Act requires livestock keepers to carry out on-farm self-assessments in order to ensure that housing conditions meet their animals’ need. But how can livestock farmers carry out objective assessments of animal welfare in their herds?
Since February 2014, in addition to daily routine inspections, livestock farmers should check the welfare status of their animals regularly and systematically within the framework of on-farm self-assessment (Animal Welfare Act § 11(8)). Therefore, they have to use animal-based indicators (termed ‘Animal Welfare Indicators’). This should ensure, that the requirements of § 2 Animal Welfare Act are met. The aim of the project ´Eigenkontrolle Tiergerechtheit (EiKoTiGer)’ was to test the feasibility of the guidelines for on-farm self-assessment (cattle, pigs and poultry), published in 2016, furthermore to develop an online training course, assessment tools for data recording and reference values, which helps to classify the results.
At the Thünen Institute for Organic Farming, we worked on dairy cows, calves and beef cattle.
The guidelines for on-farm self-assessment were developed in previous working groups and by a team of authors. This includes the identification of indicators for on-farm self-assessment, which are suitable to detect relevant animal welfare issues as well as the description of the methods. Within the project ‘EiKoTiGer’ we investigated the feasibility and reliability of the guidelines on 120 farms covering cattle (dairy cows, calves and beef cattle), pigs (sows, piglets fattening pigs) and poultry (laying hens, broilers, turkeys). Based on the results and farmers’ detailed feedback we amended the guidelines.
Furthermore, we developed an online training course on the contents of the guidelines to allow a reliable assessment of the Animal Welfare Indicators. The course includes an online test to check the success of the training.
An Excel application and data record sheets facilitates data collection. Involving numerous experts, we elaborated reference values in a multi-stage process by means of a Delphi survey, literature review and expert panels.
(1) Examination and adjustment of the selected Animal Welfare Indicators and their method descriptions regarding their feasibility and reliability for on-farm self-assessment;
(2) Development of a live and an online training courses for livestock farmers and investigation of the effects of the two training methods on the quality of data, collected by farmers;
(3) Elaboration of reference values (target and alarm values) in order to classify the farmers’ results and to help identifying relevant animal welfare problems at an early stage;
(4) Development of an Excel application which supports data recording in a digital way and provides an automated calculation and a summary of the results at farm level.
Project brief "On-farm self-assessment of animal welfare" (pdf zum Download) (DOI:10.3220/PB1639641808000)
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3.2017 - 3.2021
Project funding number: 28-1-79.012-15
Funding program: Innovationsförderung
Project status: finished