Evaluation of a welfare indicator protocol for assessing animal welfare in AMS herds: researcher, production advisor and veterinary practitioner opinion
A welfare indicator protocol integrating a total of 38 measures from 4 information sources: housing system, management, animal behaviour and clinical health has been developed for decision support in Automatic Milking System (AMS) herds. Two expert opinion studies focusing on the relevance of the welfare indicator protocol as basis for on-farm welfare assessment have been carried out; one study focused on the opinion of 21 AMS researchers; the other on that of 14 AMS production advisors and 15 veterinary practitioners. The researchers were asked to score the individual welfare relevance of the 38 measures. Furthermore, both the panels were asked to prioritise the 10 most important measures. The 21 researchers generally appreciated the listed protocol measures as highly relevant. The researcher and advisor panels agreed on prioritised measures from all 4 information sources among the 10 most important welfare indicators. In summary, researchers as well as production advisors and veterinarians supported the suggested measures for inclusion in a welfare assessment system. This has demonstrated that integration of different information is considered decisive for operational welfare assessment at herd level.
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