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Assessing animal welfare and its role for farm performance. – ongoing

Summary:

Farm animal welfare (FAW) strongly relates to consumer acceptance of production systems and therefore denotes one key aspect of the sustainability of animal production. Evaluation of distinct public or private policy measures aimed at improving FAW requires reliable methods to assess animal welfare. On-farm welfare assessments are, however, labor-intensive and time-consuming, and large-scale assessments thus remain scarce.
The research in this project investigates three major issues that are related to the goal of increasing farm animal welfare and are located along the value chain of animal production: from measurement of animal welfare, over monitoring of the animals’ constitution for improving welfare management, to consumer communication of welfare improvements. The first goal is to relate farm production data to animal welfare and farm efficiency. Within this strand, the project aims at evaluating in how far existing databases such as branch-specific cost accounting, dairy cow recording schemes and are suitable sources to proxy farm animal welfare. Furthermore, the project investigates how herd-management is related to production efficiency using structural equation modelling and explores the success of sector initiatives to increase FAW based on carcass assessments at the abattoir.
The second goal is digital monitoring of the animals’ conditions with a focus of the role of test sensitivity and specificity for the design of decision support systems to promote welfare improvements. Lastly, the project aims at investigating how animal-based welfare measures can be used for communicating the animal welfare status to consumers in order to increase consumer acceptance of labeled products.

Project team:

Prof. Dr. Silke Hüttel, Dr. Reinhard Uehleke, Dr. Stefan Seifert

Collaboration partners:

Prof. Dr. Oliver Mußhoff (Uni Göttingen)
Prof. Dr. Helena Hansson (SLU Sweden)
Dr. Birhanu Addisu Adamie (SLU Sweden)

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