Development of a decision support system to assess farm animal welfare

M.B.M. Bracke, J.H.M. Metz, B.M. Spruijt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


The progress of a project aimed at developing a decision support system (DSS) for overall welfare assessment is described. We chose the pregnant sow as a 'case' to develop the assessment method. First, we designed and tested a very simple prototype DSS in order to examine several basic ideas as to how welfare can be assessed on a scientific basis. In this prototype welfare assessment was based on the needs of animals. The second version of the DSS, which extended the approach taken in the first, included a wider range of housing systems and an improved knowledge base. It used a rigid formal procedure to construct the model, moving directly from scientific statements into if-then rules. However, this extended version resulted in counter-intuitive scores for the seven main housing systems for pregnant sows. In the third version of the DSS the complexity of the model was reduced, if-then rules being excluded. It was based on more general biological considerations (needs and sub-needs) and produced scores which accorded better with expert opinion. Weighting was managed in a simplified, but procedural way. For improved welfare assessment we suggest that the method of 'reflective equilibrium' should be used
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-20
JournalActa Agriculturae Scandinavica Section A-Animal Science
Publication statusPublished - 2001

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