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Title: The use of animal welfare outcome measurements in farm assurance schemes : exploration of the existing and potential use of welfare outcomes, using UK dairy cattle as a case example
Author: Lin, Yi-Chun
ISNI:       0000 0004 5923 8494
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2015
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Farm Assurance Schemes have been developed in the UK to ensure the safety, quality and traceability of food and welfare of livestock to consumers. The standards of assessment may focus on the inputs (resources), such as husbandry conditions and management practices, and the outcome of those inputs on the animal. An approach of assessing outcome-based (animal-based) parameters, such as the physical condition or behaviour of animals, is, however, thought to be better than resource-based ones to identify animal welfare issues and help the farmers to identify potential husbandry problems. The aim of this research was to examine the usage and the limitations of animal-based measures in current Dairy Farm Assurance Schemes (F AS), and to evaluate the potential for a novel device for dairy cow lameness detection to be used within farm assurance schemes. The investigations involved a comparison of the use of outcome-based comments in the 449 Red Tractor Assurance (RTA) , the 37 Soil Association Organic Standards (SA) and the 26 Cross Compliance Requirement (CC) reports. The results showed that even though RTA contained the most objective evidence regardless of compliance or non-compliance decisions (around 65 comments made per farm report), the RTA reports contained fewer outcome comments (around 1.9 outcome-comments per farm report) than both SA (roughly 27.3comments made and 3.6 outcome-comments per farm report) and CC (nearly 2.3 comments made and 0.6 outcome-comments per farm report) reports (p<0.001). Even when there was an animal-based comment presented in the RTA reports, it was often ambiguous and not very specific to the animals. The five animal-based parameters which were included in the SA standards were compared with corresponding RTA farm reports and SA farm reports. However, the results showed that the parameters was independent from the non-compliance of the RTA reports (p=1.000) and the SA reports (p=0.963). This indicating the the five parameters included in the SA reports were not sufficiently influential to the certifying process. A qualitative study explored the benefits and, in pat1icular, the challenges that the on-farm assessors encountered when conducting the holistic animal-based assessments of the Welfare Quality® protocol. A total of 11 assessors participated in this study. Four assessors each had performed the Welfare Quality® laying hen protocol and the dairy cattle protocol. Three assessors had experience in carrying out Welfare Quality® pig protocol. Similar difficulties were raised by the assessors from different groups. The results showed that the duration of assessment was considered too long to fit into a routine assurance assessment timeframe. Moreover, the perceived subjectivity of some animal-based measurements was felt could compromise the acceptance of the assessors' judgement by farmers. In order to overcome the variability of subjective assessments, a novel device to detect dairy cow lameness, the infra-red thermometer, was studied. Higher mean foot temperature was able to be identified by the infrared thermometer with lame cows (roughly 25°C) than that of the sound cows (around 24°C) (p<0.001). Although the sensitivity and specificity of individual lameness identification was not good (sensitivity: 71.5%, specificity: 47.3%, with the AUG= 0.613), it was still capable of ranking lameness levels of the farms when operating on dry days (p=0.036). It has the potential to be a detecting device in an assurance scheme to provide objective evidence of lameness prevalence. It is suggested that by reducing the requirement for assessors to complete objective evidence for all questions, the quality of objective evidence for important questions such as relating to animal welfare or non-compliances, would be improved. In addition, the assessors would have more time to assess and engage with farmers about welfare issues, such as dairy cow lameness.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available