Improving Animal Welfare: A Practical Approach

Edited by Dr. Temple Grandin
Colorado State University, USA

ISBN: 978-1-84593-541-2
c. 336 pages
131 figures/illustrations

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

Links for ordering:


Chapter 1: The importance of measurement to improve the welfare of livestock, poultry, and fish.

by Temple Grandin

This chapter covers the importance of using numerical scoring of animal based outcome measures. For example, there are huge differences between the best dairy farms and the worst dairy farms on the percentage of lame dairy cows and on the percentage of cattle with swollen hocks. This chapter contains photos and diagrams for scoring, leg conformation, and leg lesions on dairy cows and pigs.

Below is an excerpt from Chapter 1...

Manage Things You Measure

Livestock producers routinely measure weight gain, death losses and sickness but they may not be measuring painful or distressing conditions such as lameness, bruises or electric-goad use which severely compromises an animal’s welfare. Lameness is one of the most serious welfare problems in many species of livestock and poultry. Lameness definitely causes pain because giving dairy cows the anaesthetic lidocaine reduces it (Rushen et al., 2006; Flowers et al., 2007). People often fail to be effective managers of conditions tliar they do not measure. Lameness in intensively housed dairy cattle is a good example. Over a period of many years, lameness in dairy cows housed on concrete has become steadily worse. One of the reasons why this happened was due to the fact that nobody measured lameness until it became really bad. A recent British study showed that 16.2% of the dairy cows were lame Rutherford et al., 2009). Cows housed in freestall (cubicle) barns had an average of 24.6% of clinically lame cows (Espejo et al., 2006). However, in the top 10% of dairies lameness was only 5.4% (Espejo et al., 2006). A British survey of 53 dairies indicated that on the best 20% of the dairies, only 0—6% of the cows were lame and on the 20% of the Worst dairies, 33—62% of the cows were lame (Webster, 2005a, b). This shows that good management can reduce lameness. Lameness is also a huge welfare concern in sows. In sows, 72% of the breeding animals that had to be culled were due to locomotion problems. The major cause of locomotion problems were arthritis 24% and fractures 16% (Kirk et al., 2005).

The author observed a big increase in lame slaughter weight pigs between 1995 and 2008. A major breeder of lean rapidly growing pigs did nothing about it in the USA until in some herds 50% of the slaughter weight pigs were clinically lame. They also had very poor leg conformation. This breeder was selecting for leanness, loin-eye size and rapid growth, and over a 10-year period they did not notice that there were more and more lame pigs. The increase in lameness was mainly genetic because the pigs were all housed on the same concrete slats that had been used for years. A recent US study indicated that 21% of the sows were lame (VanSickle, 2008). A study of sows in Minnesota indicated that risk of removal from the breeding herd increased when leg conformation was poor. Culling of breeding sows that was attributable to poor legs was 16.37%for the fore-limbs and 12.90% for the back legs Tiranti and Morrison, 2006). A study done in Spain showed that poor leg conformation was associated with higher sow culling rates (deSeville et al., 2008). Selecting breeding gilts with structurally correct feet and legs will provide better welfare and productivity.

Table 1.1: Freestall (cubicle) dairies sorted by the best 20% to the worst 20% of farms for each welfare issue on 113 dairies (Source: adapted from Fulwider et al., 2007)
Percentage of cows on
Well-being issue Best 20% of farms Second best 20% of farms Middle 20% of farms Second worst 20% of farms Worst 20% of farms
Hock hair loss only 0-10 10.6-20 20.8-35.6 36.2-54.4 56-96.1
Hock swelling 0 0.7-1.7 1.9-4.2 4.2-11.9 7.4-12.5
Severe swellinga 0 0 0 0-1.5 1.8-10.7
Dirty cowsb 0-5 5.3-9.8 10.3-15.4 16.8-28.9 29.4-100
Thigh lesions 0 0 0 0 0-28.8
a Cows were rated on having a severe swelling if the worst leg had a swelling more than 7.4 cm (size of a baseball) in diameter or open or oozing injuries.
b Cows were rated as dirty if there was dried or wet manure on their body, belly, udder or uppoer portions of the leg.

Click here to return to the Homepage for more information on animal behavior, welfare, and care.

Click here to return to Dr. Grandin's Books and Video page.

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