Accurate and reliable on-farm protocols are essential in sheep welfare evaluation. However, protocols with a high number of measures are demanding in terms of time. The aim of this trial was to use a few already validated, reliable, feasible, rapid and non-invasive animal-based indicators to evaluate and compare welfare on dairy and mixed purpose sheep farms. Indicators included prevalence of leanness, fleece condition, fleece cleanliness, skin lesions, tail docking, lameness, hoof overgrowth and mastitis. Farmers were asked to rank the relevance of the animal welfare indicators. Nine farms with dairy and nine farms with dual-purpose breeds were tested. The relevance given by eighteen farmers was affected by the type of indicators. Farmers scored mastitis as the most relevant welfare indicator, followed by leanness and lameness. The least relevant indicator was docked tail. The prevalence of poor fleece condition was lower in dairy sheep, whereas dual-purpose farms had higher prevalences of tail-docked animals. Farms showing a higher prevalence of skin lesions had animals with lower body condition and higher longevity. Hoof overgrowth was positively correlated with fleece dirtiness. No differences between dairy and dual-purpose farms were found in terms of the final score, which ranged from 33 (best welfare score) to 187 (worst welfare score). The final score was highly variable among farms. Identification of indicators showing higher prevalences allow the farmers to identify the main areas for intervention at farm level.

A simple method for on-farm evaluation of sheep welfare using animal-based indicators

Giuseppe De Rosa;
2022

Abstract

Accurate and reliable on-farm protocols are essential in sheep welfare evaluation. However, protocols with a high number of measures are demanding in terms of time. The aim of this trial was to use a few already validated, reliable, feasible, rapid and non-invasive animal-based indicators to evaluate and compare welfare on dairy and mixed purpose sheep farms. Indicators included prevalence of leanness, fleece condition, fleece cleanliness, skin lesions, tail docking, lameness, hoof overgrowth and mastitis. Farmers were asked to rank the relevance of the animal welfare indicators. Nine farms with dairy and nine farms with dual-purpose breeds were tested. The relevance given by eighteen farmers was affected by the type of indicators. Farmers scored mastitis as the most relevant welfare indicator, followed by leanness and lameness. The least relevant indicator was docked tail. The prevalence of poor fleece condition was lower in dairy sheep, whereas dual-purpose farms had higher prevalences of tail-docked animals. Farms showing a higher prevalence of skin lesions had animals with lower body condition and higher longevity. Hoof overgrowth was positively correlated with fleece dirtiness. No differences between dairy and dual-purpose farms were found in terms of the final score, which ranged from 33 (best welfare score) to 187 (worst welfare score). The final score was highly variable among farms. Identification of indicators showing higher prevalences allow the farmers to identify the main areas for intervention at farm level.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11588/891043
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