Improving Animal Welfare: A Practical Approach (2nd Edition)

Edited by Dr. Temple Grandin
Colorado State University, USA

ISBN: 978-1-78064-467-7
c. 368 pages
131 figures/illustrations

Subject Classifcation: KNAC, PSVP, TVH, TW
Territorial Market Rights: World
Published by CABI

Links for ordering:


Chapter 4: Implementing effective standards and scoring systems for assessing animal welfare on farms and slaughter plants.

edited by Temple Grandin, Colorado State University
published by CABI

This chapter covers how to write effective guidelines and standards that are easy to interpret. The emphasis is on animal based standards. The species covered are cattle, pigs, sheep, horses, poultry, and fish. Chapter 3 also has illustrations to assist in scoring the condition of pastures, feather conditions in laying hens, and foot pad lesions in broiler chickens.

Below is an excerpt from Chapter 4...

Different Types of Welfare Standards

There are five basic types of standards for assessing animal welfare:
  1. Animal-based measures also called performance standards or outcome criteria (Most Emphasis).
  2. Practices that are prohibited (Most Emphasis).
  3. Input-based engineering or design standards (Less Emphasis).
  4. Subjective evaluations (Less Emphasis).
  5. Record keeping, stockpersofl training documents and paperwork requirements. Documentation of management procedures and standard operating procedures (SOPs) (Less Emphasis).

Animal-based standards

Animal-based measures of welfare problems that can be directly observed by an auditor when he/she visits a farm can be very effective for improving welfare. They are outcomes of poor management practices. The OlE is moving towards the use of more animal-based outcome standards. The use of outcome-based standards is recommended by many animal welfare researchers (Hewson, 2003; Wray et a!., 2003, 2007; Webster, 2005; Dulman et al, 2012). The large European animal welfare assessment project is also emphasizing outcome-based measures (Linda Keeling, 2008, personal communication; Welfare Quality Network, 2009; EFSA, 2012). She states that measures should be: (i) science based; (ii) reliable and repeatable; and (iii) feasible and practical that can be implemented in the field. Other work on animal-based assessment has been done by Wray et al. (2003, 2007) and Laywel (2009). Directly observable conditions are easy for auditors to score and quantify. Some important examples are body condition scoring (BCS), lameness scoring, falling during handling, and animal cleanliness scoring. There are many published scoring systems that have pictures and diagrams which make it easy to train auditors (Welfare Quality Network, 2009). Edmonson et al. (1989) is one example. Studies of BCS show that different observers assign similar scores if the evaluators are well trained. The correlation between different observers varied from 0.763 to 0.858 (Ferguson et al., 1994). However, Kristensen et al. (2006) found that 51 practicing veterinarians were very variable in their consistency of scoring body condition. Body score assessors should be trained and their ability to assign accurate scores validated. For a welfare audit, scoring will be easier because the assessor only has to identify animals that are too skinny (see Chapter 1 for further information on measurements).

For assessing animal handling, scoring systems where handling faults are numerically scored are easy to implement and very effective (Maria et al., 2004; Grandin, 2010, 2007a; Edge and Barnett, 2008). Some of the items that are measured are the percentage of animals that fall, percentage poked with an electric goad, percentage that vocalize (moo, bellow, squeal) or the percentage that move faster than a trot or walk. Lameness scoring of dairy cows has high inter-observer repeatability of locomotion scores of individual cows and the variation between observers is low (Winckler and Willen, 2001). This indicates that a five-point lameness scale will provide reliable data. In another study, observers who visited seven dairy farms on three occasions had high inter-observer repeatability on the variables of lameness scoring, kicking and stepping during milking, cow cleanliness and avoidance (flight) distance (DeRosa at al., 2003). They had similar results in water buffalos for kicking and stepping and avoidance distance (DeRosa et al., 2003). Lameness was non-existent in buffalos and cleanliness scores are meaningless because buffalos wallow.

The OIE codes (2014d) also support the use of numerical scoring Chapter 7.3 states:

Performance standards should be established in which numerical scoring is used to evaluate the use of such instruments, and to measure the percentage of animals moved with an electric instrument and the percentage of animals slipping or falling as a result of their usage.

At the slaughter plant, directly observable animal-based conditions that would be detrimental to welfare can be easily assessed. A few examples are bruises, death losses during transport, broken wings on poultry, hock burn on poultry, disease conditions, poor body condition, lameness, injuries and animals covered with manure. On the farm, abnormal behaviour such as stereotypical pacing, bar biting in sows, cannibalism in poultry, excessive startle response, and tail biting are also easy to numerically quantify and observe.

Indicators of animal welfare problems that can be easily measured at the slaughter plant
Outcomes of rough handling transport problems and abuse Outcomes of housing problems Outcomes of poor management, genetic or neglected health problems
  • Bruises
  • Broken wings poultry
  • Number dead on arrival
  • Number non-ambulatory
  • Injuries such as broken horns or legs
  • Broken tails
  • Injuries from specific abusive practices such as poked out eyes, puncture wounds from nails or cut tendons
  • Animal covered with manure
  • Hock burn - poultry
  • Swellings on the legs of dairy cattle
  • Pressure sores on sows
  • Serious wounds from fights
  • Foot pad lesions poultry
  • Eye and lung pathology due to high ammonia levels
  • Breast blisters on poultry
  • Hoof problems
  • Fin erosion on fish
  • Body condition
  • Lameness
  • Coat/feather condition
  • Difficult to handle wild animals
  • Weak animals
  • Cancer eye
  • External parasites
  • Internal parasites
  • Tail biting
  • Twisted legs poultry
  • Poor leg conformation
  • Prohibited practices and mutilations
  • Disease conditions
  • Dehydration
  • Horns cut on mature cattle
  • Liver abscesses grain fed

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Click here to return to the Improving Animal Welfare Table of Contents page and read other chapter excerpts.