A new approach and insights on modelling the impact of production diseases on dairy cow welfare

F. Edwardes*, M. van der Voort, T.B. Rodenburg, H. Hogeveen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Animal welfare is becoming an important consideration in animal health-related decision-making. Integrating considerations of animal welfare into the decision-making process of farmers involves recognising the significance of health disorder impacts in relation to animal welfare. Yet little research quantifies the impact, making it difficult to include animal welfare in the animal health decision-making process. Quantifying the impact of health disorders on animal welfare is incredibly challenging due to empirical animal-based data collection constraints. An approach to circumvent these constraints is to rely on expert knowledge whereby perceived welfare impairment weights are indicative of the negative welfare effect. In this research, we propose an expertise-based method to quantify the perceived impact of sub-optimal mobility (SOM) on the welfare of dairy cows, because of its welfare importance. We first quantified perceived welfare impairment weights of SOM by eliciting expert knowledge using adaptive conjoint analysis (ACA). Second, using the perceived welfare impairment weights, we derived the perceived welfare disutility (i.e., perceived negative welfare effect) of mobility scores 1–5 (1 = optimal mobility, 5 = severely impaired mobility). Third, using the perceived welfare disutility per mobility score, we quantified the perceived welfare impact at case- and herd-level of SOM for different SOM severity. Results showed that perceived welfare disutility increased with each increase in mobility score. However, the perceived welfare impact of SOM cases with lower mobility scores was higher compared to SOM cases with higher mobility scores. This was because of the longer-lasting duration of the SOM cases with lower mobility scores. Moreover, the perceived herd-level welfare impact was largely due to SOM cases with lower mobility scores because of the longer duration and more frequent incidence compared to the SOM cases with higher mobility scores. These results entail that better welfare of dairy cows with respect to SOM can be achieved if lower mobility scores are detected and treated sooner. Our research demonstrates a novel approach that quantifies the perceived impact of health disorders on animal welfare when empirical evidence is limited.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101056
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2024


  • Adaptive conjoint analysis
  • Expert elicitation
  • Sub-optimal mobility
  • Welfare impact
  • Welfare impairment weight

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