Developing a welfare assessment system for use in commercial organic egg production
A welfare assessment system is being developed for commercial organic egg production based on indicators of behaviour, health, system, and management, which is the general Danish Institute for Agricultural Science (DIAS) concept for assessing animal welfare at farm level. The welfare assessment system works as an advisory tool for farmers, helping them to improve welfare in their flocks. Identification of individual animals in organic egg production is impossible; therefore, management and welfare assessment are based on flock evaluation. Mortality is often a major welfare problem in organic egg production, to some extent caused by inefficient disease detection and control. Health indicators are therefore closely monitored, including variations in live weight, mortality, food and water consumption, and autopsies. Severe outbreaks of feather pecking and cannibalism causing excess mortality are often induced by the presence of stressors. Various stressors, as well as indicators of stress, are therefore included in the welfare indicator protocol. Finally the daily management effort and routines are evaluated on the basis of a management plan prepared by the farmer and a consultant in cooperation, as well as by use of interviews.
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