INITIATIVES TO PROMOTE FARMERS’ ENGAGEMENT IN ON-FARM WELFARE ASSESSMENT

Lisa van Dijk, David Main, S.M. Butcher, Siobhan Mullan, Jennifer Jamieson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

Abstract

The AssureWel project aims to improve animal welfare through the inclusion of welfare outcome assessments within farm assurance schemes. Two practical approaches have been developed and trialled to encourage farmers to use outcome assessments on farm to help inform decision making regarding animal welfare improvements. These are: “joint scoring”, whereby the farmer scores the welfare of several animals in conjunction with the farm assurance assessor, and “self-assessment”, whereby the farmer alone does a formal welfare observation of their animals and records results. This paper explores farmers’ perspectives concerning the practical value of both, and the use of welfare outcome data to inform on farm decision making.
A survey was conducted with a total of 81 members of either the Freedom Food or Soil Association farm assurance schemes about joint scoring (37 dairy farmers) or self-assessment (44 hen farmers). In addition, two focus groups with 17 hen farmers and two with 13 dairy farmers were held.
Of the dairy farmers that responded to the joint scoring survey 84% indicated they had carried out joint scoring. 64% rated positive benefits of jointly scoring animals and 67% indicated that joint scoring lead to useful discussions with the assessor. Farmers indicated that joint scoring provides them a better understanding of welfare assessment scores allocated and 67% indicated joint scoring enables them to undertake self-assessment using the AssureWel protocol.
The hen farmers who responded to the self-assessment survey generally welcomed the increased animal focus. They indicated that self-assessment aids in early detection of a problem and is particularly useful for larger farms that depend on hired stockmen. However, farmers perceived limited benefit of the self-assessment protocol as part of farm assurance, and considered self-assessment as good stockmanship and duplication of what they are already doing on a day to day basis. Many were opposed to the increase in paperwork and time required without any apparent financial benefit. They also indicated that solving a problem when identified was more important than formally recording the scoring.
Focus groups discussions indicated that farmers desired greater use of the data collected in welfare outcome assessments.
Joint scoring as part of the farm assurance audit process was received more positively than self-assessment which is required to be carried out in addition to the audit. The results of this study will inform future policy towards farm assurance.

Acknowledgements: The Tubney Charitable Trust for funding a collaborative project between RSPCA, Soil Association and University of Bristol - known as AssureWel (www.AssureWel.org) - under which this work was conducted.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication UFAW International Animal Welfare Science Symposium
Pages78
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jul 2015

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