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Co-designed Welfare Monitoring Platform for Pig and Dairy Cattle

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - ClearFarm (Co-designed Welfare Monitoring Platform for Pig and Dairy Cattle)

Reporting period: 2019-10-01 to 2021-03-31

Animal welfare has become a fundamental aspect of modern livestock production as citizens in Europe and elsewhere demand that animals are reared, transported and slaughtered as humanely as possible. Animal welfare is first and foremost an ethical issue derived from the fact that animals are sentient beings. Also, improving farm animal welfare has positive effects on human health. Important as it is, however, animal welfare should not be seen as an stand-alone issue, but in relationship with other societal concerns, including environmental issues.

If farm animal welfare is to make a significant progress, we need to have scientifically validated systems to assess the welfare of animals. These assessment systems shall provide reliable information to consumers so that they can make informed choices when buying animal foods and, ideally, information on animal welfare and on the environmental impact of farming should be combined.

In this context, the ClearFarn project aims to develop and validate a system to assess the welfare of pigs and dairy cattle using information that can be automatically gathered on the production farms and with a particular focus on welfare issues that have an impact on the environment.
So far, we have gathered detailed information on consumers' and other stakeholders views on the potential and perceived risks of using automatically recorded information to assess the welfare of farm animals. Our results indicate that although stakeholders have a generally positive view of such an approach, they also perceive some risks, including the fear that the integration of automatically recorded data will introduce more industrialisation into livestock farming production; the concern that such data are vulnerable to misuse and cyber-crime, and that it is not communicated adequately to allow informed purchase decisions. These research findings provide directions for members of the animal-based food value chain to make informed decisions to improve their sustainability, social responsibility and credibility by endorsing the acceptance automatically recorded data to assess farm animal welfare amongst European consumers.

We have also reviewed the existing validated and commercially available technologies that could be used for sensor-based welfare assessment in dairy cattle and pigs. Our findings show that existing technologies are potential tools for on-farm animal welfare assessment in pig and dairy cattle production. However, validation studies are lacking for an important percentage of market available tools. In particular research and development need to focus on identifying technologies to assess the animals' affective states or emotions, both positive and negative.

Finally, we have started several trials on pig and dairy farms to validate several automatic recording systems that hopefully will provide valid information on the behaviour and affective state of farm animals taking into account consumers' expectations.
We are still in the fisr phase of the project and are awaiting the results of our on-farm trials that should allow us to desing a platform to assess the welfare of pigs and dairy cattle using automatically recorded information. This, in turn, will be a valuable tool for European consumers and will contribute to the sustainability of the European livestock industry.
Farm trial in WP2
Farm trial in WP3