Development of a simplified Welfare Quality® assessment protocol for pigs

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


The main deliverables of the Welfare Quality® project consist of protocols for the on-farm assessment of animal welfare. They are predominantly animal based, and aim to assess the welfare status in relation to four main principles: animals should experience good housing, good feeding, good health and the ability to perform appropriate behaviour. The protocols are not used in commercial practice yet. One of the reasons for this is the length of time it takes to complete a Welfare Quality® assessment: the finishing pig protocol and the sows & piglets protocol each take 5.5 hours to complete. The main aim of the current project was to develop less time consuming protocols, which provide the same level of accuracy in assessing welfare. Secondary objectives were: the development of a commercially viable training programme for assessors, and the development of a welfare database of Dutch pig farms. The project started in December 2010. Twelve candidate assessors were trained during a three day course, focussing on sows and piglets (4 trainees; 34 parameters) or finishing pigs (8 trainees; 26 parameters). Day one consisted of a theoretical part, on day two the knowledge obtained was applied on farm, and day three involved an exam in which candidates were asked to score welfare status from a set of standard photos. Based on exam results, ten candidates were recruited for the second phase of the project: the farm visits. Between January and June 2011 a total of 81 Dutch pig farms were visited and the complete Welfare Quality® protocol for finishing pigs was carried out on these farms. On 45 of these farms the sows & piglets protocol was also executed. In addition, the finishing pigs of the 81 farms were inspected routinely by experienced staff at five abattoirs. These assessments included animal based parameters such as tail health, gait, and lung and liver health. All data was collected using a PDA and downloaded to a central database. During the third phase of the project (July-December 2011), the Welfare Quality® and abattoir data were analysed statistically aiming to identify levels of correlation between individual parameters. Preliminary analyses indicate a high degree of variation between farms. In the presentation the results of the simplification process will be shown. A proposal for a revised Welfare Quality® protocol will be based on the substitution of time consuming parameters by highly correlated less intensive equivalents from within the original protocol, or obtained at the abattoir. Final data will be presented at the WAFL meeting. The outcomes of this project will provide the starting points for a three year practical study, in which animal based parameters will be used to improve welfare on pig farms.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2012
EventMinding Animals 2012 Conference - Utrecht, Netherlands
Duration: 3 Jul 20126 Jul 2012


ConferenceMinding Animals 2012 Conference


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