Towards implementation of farm animal welfare monitoring in practice: example from the veal industry

C.G. van Reenen, M. Wolthuis, J. Heeres, M.M.C. Wesselink, M. Cappon, E.A.M. Bokkers

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingAbstract

Abstract

Between 2005 and 2009, a system for on-farm monitoring of veal calf welfare was developed by a consortium of scientific and commercial partners from France, Italy and the Netherlands. The system comprised of protocols for the recording of primarily animal-based measures of behaviour, clinical health, and post-mortem pathology, and an assessment model based on threshold values for individual welfare measures and the integration of these measures into aggregate scores according to the Welfare Quality® approach. Currently, in the Netherlands, a follow-up study is in progress aiming to support the implementation in the veal industry of a welfare monitoring system. In this study we try to establish a so-called ‘quality cycle’ whereby (1) the welfare status of a batch of veal calves is assessed by an external, trained assessor, (2) the assessment information is reported and interpreted, and fed back to the farmer by one of his own advisors, (3) remedial steps in terms of e.g. feeding, housing, and management are taken by the farmer if needed and on a voluntary basis; these steps are also laid down in a concise report, and (4) an assessment of the welfare of the next batch of calves takes place. In our project welfare assessments are carried out by inspectors of the Foundation for Quality Guarantee of the Veal Sector, which is an independent inspection body performing food safety and legal compliance audits on Dutch veal farms. Depending on the type of farm and system of veal production, either professional advisors of the veal or feed industry, who already attend veal farms participating in the study, or regular veterinarians act as advisors with regard to the interpretation and possible implications of welfare assessment outcomes. A total of 65 veal farmers voluntarily enrolled in the study. On each farm four consecutive batches of calves will be followed-up and systematically monitored. Wageningen University is responsible for the training and instruction of assessors and advisors, and for data handling and reporting. Throughout the study, we also interview farmers and their advisors, and have feedback meetings with groups of assessors, advisors and farmers. We will address some limitations and advantages of our approach. We suggest that the active involvement of stakeholders within the veal sector in welfare assessment and in providing advice to farmers will facilitate the future adoption of the welfare monitoring system in practice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 6th International Conference on the Assessment of Animal Welfare at Farm and Group Level
EditorsL. Mounier, I. Veissier
Place of PublicationWageningen, The Netherlands
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
Pages202-202
ISBN (Print)9789086862474
Publication statusPublished - 2014
EventWAFL2014 6th International Conference on the Assessment of Animal Welfare - Clermont Ferrand, France
Duration: 3 Sep 20145 Sep 2014

Conference

ConferenceWAFL2014 6th International Conference on the Assessment of Animal Welfare
CountryFrance
CityClermont Ferrand
Period3/09/145/09/14

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