Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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    Pig behaviour linked to sanitary conditions and diets
    Meer, Y. van der; Gerrits, W.J.J. ; Jansman, A.J.M. ; Kemp, B. ; Bolhuis, J.E. - \ 2017
    Pig Progress
    pigs - pig - feed - abnormal behaviour - health - research - housing systems - tail biting
    There is a connection between damaging behaviour in pigs, sanitary conditions and diet formulations. How exactly, was presented by Dutch researchers recently.
    Indirect Genetic Effects for Growth Rate in Domestic Pigs Alter Aggressive and Manipulative Biting Behaviour
    Camerlink, I. ; Ursinus, W.W. ; Bijma, P. ; Kemp, B. ; Bolhuis, J.E. - \ 2015
    Behavior Genetics 45 (2015)1. - ISSN 0001-8244 - p. 117 - 126.
    social breeding values - multilevel selection - environment interactions - interacting phenotypes - housing systems - traits - performance - chickens - populations - serotonin
    Indirect genetic effects (IGEs) are heritable effects of an individual on phenotypic values of others, and may result from social interactions. We determined the behavioural consequences of selection for IGEs for growth (IGEg) in pigs in a G × E treatment design. Pigs (n = 480) were selected for high versus low IGEg with a contrast of 14 g average daily gain and were housed in either barren or straw-enriched pens (n = 80). High IGEg pigs showed from 8 to 23 weeks age 40 % less aggressive biting (P = 0.006), 27 % less ear biting (P = 0.03), and 40 % less biting on enrichment material (P = 0.005). High IGEg pigs had a lower tail damage score (high 2.0; low 2.2; P = 0.004), and consumed 30 % less jute sacks (P = 0.002). Selection on high IGEg reduced biting behaviours additive to the, generally much larger, effects of straw-bedding (P <0.01), with no G × E interactions. These results show opportunities to reduce harmful biting behaviours in pigs.
    Fresh wood reduces tail and ear biting and increases exploratory behaviour in finishing pigs.
    Telkanranta, H. ; Bracke, M.B.M. ; Valros, A. - \ 2014
    Applied Animal Behaviour Science 161 (2014). - ISSN 0168-1591 - p. 51 - 59.
    environmental enrichment - housing systems - fattening pigs - performance - objects - novelty - risk
    Chewing and rooting are high behavioural priorities in pigs. Lack of suitable materials can lead to abnormal behaviours such as tail and ear biting. In commercial farming, slatted floors limit the use of straw, and various point-source objects have therefore been developed. The crucial challenge is to design objects that improve welfare at minimal material and labour costs. The aim of this study was to test three low-cost objects: branching metal chains, polythene pipe crosses and fresh wood. The study was carried out on undocked growing-finishing pigs on a commercial farm in Finland, housed on partly slatted floors in 10-m2 pens of 11 pigs. The total number of pigs at the time of data collection was 780, as the farmer had removed 23 of the original pigs due to tail biting. The control pens (N = 17) had a straw rack, a metal chain and a daily provision of wood shavings. The experimental pens had the same and one of the following: the wood pens (N = 14) had horizontally suspended pieces of fresh birch wood (Ø 10 cm), 30 cm per pig; the plastic pens (N = 13) had a cross of 60-cm polythene pipes (Ø 5 cm), hanging from the ceiling; the branching-chain pens (N = 15) had two crosses of metal chains, suspended vertically; and the combination pens (N = 14) had all of the above. After 2.5 months of exposure to the objects, the pigs were video-recorded, and tail and ear damage were scored.
    Prevalence and potential influencing factors of non-nutritive oral behaviors of veal calves on commercial farms
    Leruste, H. ; Brscic, M. ; Cozzi, G. ; Kemp, B. ; Wolthuis-Fillerup, M. ; Lensink, B.J. ; Bokkers, E.A.M. ; Reenen, C.G. van - \ 2014
    Journal of Dairy Science 97 (2014)11. - ISSN 0022-0302 - p. 7021 - 7030.
    immune-responses - housing systems - dairy calves - risk-factors - welfare - sucking - intersucking - stereotypies - reliability - indicators
    Veal calves raised under intensive conditions may express non-nutritive oral behaviors. When expressed in an abnormal way, these behaviors can be a sign of mental suffering and reduced welfare due to a mismatch between environmental or management features and animals' needs. The aims of this study were to estimate the prevalence of non-nutritive oral behaviors in a large sample of veal farms in Europe and to determine the potential influencing factors present at farm level. Data were collected on 157 commercial veal farms in the 3 main veal-producing countries in Europe (the Netherlands, France, and Italy). Observations of 3 non-nutritive oral behaviors (manipulating substrates, tongue rolling, and manipulating a penmate) were performed when calves were aged 14 wk, and the prevalence of these behaviors was calculated. Information on management practices and characteristics of the building and equipment were collected on all farms to assess potential influencing factors for each of the 3 behaviors. Odds ratios and 95% confidence intervals were calculated to evaluate the effect of each individual factor within a generalized linear model. The mean percentage of calves per farm performing manipulating substrates was 11.0 ± 0.46%, performing tongue rolling 2.8 ± 0.18%, and manipulating a penmate 2.7 ± 0.09%, with a high range between farms. Allowing more space for calves than the legal minimum requirement of 1.8 m2/calf and housing them in groups of >10 calves/pen reduced the incidences of manipulating substrates and tongue rolling. Incidence of manipulating substrates was lower for calves fed maize silage compared with calves fed cereal grain, pellets, or muesli. A higher risk of tongue rolling was found when baby-boxes (i.e., single housing during the first 5 to 8 wk) were not used. Risk of calves manipulating a penmate was higher for calves of milk- or meat-type breeds compared with dual-purpose breeds and for calves fed with 280 to 380 kg compared with those fed >380 kg of milk powder in total for the fattening period. The study allowed assessment of multiple factors across farms that showed variety in terms of conditions and level of non-nutritive oral behaviors. Identification of the factors influencing non-nutritive oral behavior is helpful to define potential actions that could be taken on farms to improve the welfare of calves and reduce the prevalence of these behaviors.
    Growth performance and carcass traits in pigs selected for indirect genetic effects on growth rate in two environments
    Camerlink, I. ; Bolhuis, J.E. ; Duijvesteijn, N. ; Arendonk, J.A.M. van; Bijma, P. - \ 2014
    Journal of Animal Science 92 (2014)6. - ISSN 0021-8812 - p. 2612 - 2619.
    finishing pigs - breeding programs - housing systems - ad-libitum - esophagogastric lesions - multilevel selection - fattening pigs - gastric-ulcers - daily gain - temperature
    Production traits such as growth rate may depend on the social interactions between group members. These social interactions might be partly heritable and are referred to as indirect genetic effects (IGE), social-, associative-, or competitive genetic effects. IGE may contribute to heritable variation in traits, and can thus be used to increase the response to selection. This, however, has hardly been tested by selection experiments. Our objective was to determine the effects of one generation of selection on IGE for growth (IGEg) in pigs on ADG, BW, ADFI, feed efficiency, and post-mortem measurements. Sires (n=24) and dams (n=64) were selected to create a high vs. low contrast for IGEg in the offspring (n=480). The IGE difference was 2.8 g ADG per pen mate, corresponding to 14 g higher ADG in high IGEg offspring compared to low IGEg offspring when housed in groups of 6 (i.e. (6-1)×2.8 = 14). Male (barrows) and female (gilts) offspring were housed in groups of 6 of the same IGEg classification, in either barren concrete pens or pen enriched with straw and wood shavings (n=80 pens). Pigs were followed from birth to slaughter. Data were analyzed in a mixed model with pen as random factor. There was no difference in ADG between high and low IGEg pigs during the finishing period (wk 10 to 23). Opposite to expectations, high IGEg tended to have a 17 g lower ADG from weaning to slaughter (P=0.08), which was caused by a higher BW of low IGEg pigs in wk 5 (P=0.008). This led to a 2.3 kg lower carcass weight (P=0.02) and 2.2 mm less muscle depth for high IGEg pigs (P=0.03). High IGEg pigs had a higher stomach wall damage score (P=0.01). Pigs on straw had a 25 g lower ADG during finishing (P=0.03), and less stomach wall damage (P
    Evaluating results of the Welfare Quality multi-criteria evaluation model for classification of dairy cattle welfare at the herd level
    Vries, M. de; Bokkers, E.A.M. ; Schaik, G. van; Botreau, R. ; Engel, B. ; Dijkstra, T. ; Boer, I.J.M. de - \ 2013
    Journal of Dairy Science 96 (2013)10. - ISSN 0022-0302 - p. 6264 - 6273.
    animal-welfare - housing systems - water troughs - part 1 - cows - aggregation - behavior - produce
    The Welfare Quality multi-criteria evaluation (WQ-ME) model aggregates scores of single welfare measures into an overall assessment for the level of animal welfare in dairy herds. It assigns herds to 4 welfare classes: unacceptable, acceptable, enhanced, or excellent. The aim of this study was to demonstrate the relative importance of single welfare measures for WQ-ME classification of a selected sample of Dutch dairy herds. Seven trained observers quantified 63 welfare measures of the Welfare Quality protocol in 183 loose housed- and 13 tethered Dutch dairy herds (herd size: 10 to 211 cows). First, values of welfare measures were compared among the 4 welfare classes, using Kruskal-Wallis and Chi-squared tests. Second, observed values of single welfare measures were replaced with a fictitious value, which was the median value of herds classified in the next highest class, to see if improvement of a single measure would enable a herd to reach a higher class. Sixteen herds were classified as unacceptable, 85 as acceptable, 78 as enhanced, and none as excellent. Classification could not be calculated for 17 herds because data were missing (15 herds) or data were deemed invalid because the stockperson disturbed behavioral observations (2 herds). Herds classified as unacceptable showed significantly more very lean cows, more severely lame cows, and more often an insufficient number of drinkers than herds classified as acceptable. Herds classified as acceptable showed significantly more cows with high somatic cell count, with lesions, that could not be approached closer than 1 m, colliding with components of the stall while lying down, and lying outside the lying area, and showed fewer cows with diarrhea, more often had an insufficient number of drinkers, and scored lower for the descriptors “relaxed” and “happy” than herds classified as enhanced. Increasing the number of drinkers and reducing the percentage of cows colliding with components of the stall while lying down were the changes most effective in allowing herds classified as unacceptable and acceptable, respectively, to reach a higher class. The WQ-ME model was not very sensitive to improving single measures of good health. We concluded that a limited number of welfare measures had a strong influence on classification of dairy herds. Classification of herds based on the WQ-ME model in its current form might lead to a focus on improving these specific measures and divert attention from improving other welfare measures. The role of expert opinion and the type of algorithmic operator used in this model should be reconsidered.
    The prevention and control of feather pecking: application to commercial systems
    Nicol, C.J. ; Bestman, M. ; Gilani, A.M. ; Haas, E.N. de; Jong, I.C. de; Lampton, S. ; Wagenaar, J.P. ; Weeks, C.A. ; Rodenburg, T.B. - \ 2013
    Worlds Poultry Science Journal 69 (2013)4. - ISSN 0043-9339 - p. 775 - 788.
    housed laying hens - gallus-gallus-domesticus - housing systems - risk-factors - alternative systems - stocking density - flock size - furnished cages - light-intensity - rearing factors
    Studies on the prevalence of feather pecking in different commercial laying hen 23 systems and its welfare and economic impacts are reviewed in the following paper. 24 Current methods for controlling feather pecking include beak-trimming and alterations to light regimes, but these methods have significant disadvantages from the perspective of bird welfare. A substantial body of research has now identified risk factors for feather pecking during both the rearing and laying periods. It is argued that these findings can be translated into optimised management practices that can prevent and control feather pecking whilst simultaneously conferring welfare benefits. The genetic basis of feather pecking is considered, and studies that suggest group selection techniques could produce birds with a reduced tendency to feather peck in commercial flocks are highlighted. Keywords: laying hen; feather pecking; beak-trimming; light; risk factor; genetic selection
    Associations between osteochondrosis and conformation and locomotive characteristics in pigs
    Koning, D.B. de; Grevenhof, E.M. van; Laurenssen, B.F.A. ; Ducro, B.J. ; Heuven, H.C.M. ; Groot, P.N. de; Hazeleger, W. ; Kemp, B. - \ 2012
    Journal of Animal Science 90 (2012)3. - ISSN 0021-8812 - p. 4752 - 4763.
    swine breeding herds - linear type traits - leg weakness - genetic-parameters - exterior traits - danish-landrace - housing systems - finishing pigs - growth rate - sows
    Conformation and locomotive characteristics (CLC), i.e., leg conformation and gait movement patterns, may be associated with osteochondrosis (OC) in pigs. Osteochondrosis and CLC increase the risk of premature culling. This study investigated whether CLC have an explanatory value, over the previously modelled effects of sex, feeding, and housing conditions, on the occurrence and severity of OC in several joints and at the animal level. At 154 to 156 d of age, 267 pigs were subjectively scored on 9 conformation and 2 locomotive characteristics. Scoring was performed on a 9-point linear grading scale. For conformation characteristics, score 5 indicated normal conformation and scores 1 and 9 indicated severe deviations from normal. For the locomotive characteristics, score 1 indicated normal locomotion and score 9 indicated severe deviation from normal. At 161 to 176 d of age, pigs were slaughtered and joints were dissected for macroscopic evaluation of OC status. Results showed that swaying hindquarters and a stiffer gait were associated with higher scores for OC in, respectively, the femoropatellar (P = 0.018) and tarsocrural joint (P = 0.005); smaller inner claws as compared to the outer claws of the front legs was associated with lower scores for OC than equally sized claws in the femoropatellar joint (P = 0.021) and on animal level (P = 0.010); steep and weak pasterns of the front legs were associated with higher scores for OC in the elbow joint (P = 0.004) and on animal level (P = 0.018); X-shaped hind legs was associated with higher scores for OC on animal level (P = 0.037); and steep and weak pasterns of the hind legs were associated with lower scores for OC than normal conformation in the tarsocrural joint (P = 0.05). This study found several CLC that were associated with OC in several joints and at an animal level. This study showed that certain CLC might be used as indicators of OC and included in the criteria for selection of replacement animals for the breeding herd.
    Emissions of ammonia, nitrous oxide, and methane from aviaries with organic laying hen husbandry
    Dekker, S.E.M. ; Aarnink, A.J.A. ; Boer, I.J.M. de; Groot Koerkamp, P.W.G. - \ 2011
    Biosystems Engineering 110 (2011)2. - ISSN 1537-5110 - p. 123 - 133.
    housing systems - manure - litter
    The first objective of this study was to measure the year round emissions of ammonia (NH(3)), nitrous oxide (N(2)O), and methane (CH(4)) from three commercial aviary systems with organic laying hen husbandry. The second was to determine the effect on NH(3), N(2)O and CH(4) emissions of varying removal interval when using manure belts. Emissions were computed from the ventilation rate, calculated with the carbon dioxide (CO(2)) mass balance method, and gas concentrations of NH(3), N(2)O, and CH(4) inside and outside the hen house. Mean emission per hen for NH(3) was 410 mg d(-1), for N(2)O was 3.12 mg d(-1), and for CH(4) was 81.7 mg d(-1). Mean predicted emission per hen for NH(3) on the first day after manure removal was 298 mg d(-1), and increased by 5.47% d(-1). The presence of manure on the belt did not affect emissions of N(2)O and CH(4). Emission of NH(3) from aviary systems with organic laying hen husbandry was in the same range as emission of NH(3) from aviary systems with non-organic laying hen husbandry. Using organic laying hen husbandry in aviary systems instead of single-tiered systems has the potential to reduce emissions of NH(3), N(2)O, and CH4; further reductions might be realised by changes in litter management. (C) 2011 IAgrE. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Overall welfare assessment of laying hens: Comparing science-based, environmental-based and animal-based assessments
    Shimmura, T. ; Bracke, M.B.M. ; Mol, R.M. de; Hirahara, S. ; Tanaka, T. - \ 2011
    Animal Science journal 82 (2011)1. - ISSN 1344-3941 - p. 150 - 160.
    decision-support system - burmese red junglefowl - large furnished cages - housing systems - domestic hens - feather pecking - battery cages - dustbathing behavior - rearing environment - physical condition
    To increase the validity of evaluations and facilitate expansion and maintenance of assessment systems, we constructed a database of studies on the welfare of laying hens around the world. On the basis of this database, we devised a science-based welfare assessment model. Our model includes measurements, levels and weightings based on the scientific studies in the database, and can clarify the advantages and disadvantages of housing systems for laying hens from the viewpoint of the five freedoms. We also evaluated the usefulness of our model by comparing it with environment-based Animal Needs Index (ANI), another science-based model called FOWEL, and animal-based measurements. Our model showed that freedom from injury, pain and disease, and freedom from discomfort were more secure in the cage system, while non-cage systems scored better for natural behavior and freedom from fear and distress. A significant strong-positive correlation was found between the animal-based assessment and the total scores of ANI (rs = 0.94, P <0.05), FOWEL (rs = 0.99, P <0.05) or our model (rs = 0.99, P <0.05), which indicate that these different approaches to welfare assessment may be used almost interchangeably to ‘measure’ a common property (‘overall laying hen welfare’). However, assessments using our model and FOWEL were more sensitive than ANI and can be applied to cage systems, which suggest that our model and FOWEL may have added value.
    Quantitative assessment of the effects of space allowance, group size and floor characteristics on the lying behaviour of growing-finishing pigs
    Averos, X. ; Brossard, L. ; Dourmad, J.Y. ; Greef, K.H. de; Edge, H.L. ; Edwards, S.A. ; Meunier-Salaün, M.C. - \ 2010
    Animal 4 (2010)5. - ISSN 1751-7311 - p. 777 - 783.
    large social-groups - environmental enrichment - growth-performance - feeding patterns - housing systems - farm-animals - feeder type - welfare - productivity - physiology
    To obtain quantitative information that can be later used in animal welfare modelling, the relationship between the lying behaviour of growing-finishing pigs (initial body weight (BW) between 19 and 87 kg) and different factors related to the housing conditions, with a potential negative effect on their welfare, was studied by means of a meta-analytical approach. Data from 22 experiments reported in 21 scientific publications were collected. The space allowance, expressed on an allometric basis by means of a k-value (m2/BW0.667), the group size (n) and the floor characteristics (fully and partly slatted v. non-slatted floor), as well as their significant two-way interactions were used as fixed effects, and the experiment was used as a random factor to take into account the interexperiment effect. Further regression analyses were performed on the predicted values of observations in order to improve the adjustment of data. A significant quadratic relationship was established between space allowance (k-value, P <0.05; squared k-value, P <0.01) and the percentage of time spent lying. A significant interaction between the k-value and the floor type was also found (P <0.05), showing that the relationship between space allowance and lying behaviour is affected by the presence or absence of slats. Threshold k-values were obtained using broken-line analyses, being about 0.039 for slatted floors and almost double for non-slatted floors. Compared to other studies, these values suggest that the ability to rest as space availability decreases may be compromised before a reduced performance becomes apparent. Group size did not show a significant effect. Additional information should be added to the model, as further data become available, to adjust the proposed parameters as well as to try to include the effect of other important aspects such as that of ambient temperature.
    On-farm welfare and estimated daily carcass gain of slaughtered bulls
    Herva, T. ; Virtala, A.M. ; Huuskonen, A. ; Saatkamp, H.W. ; Peltoniemi, O. - \ 2009
    Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica Section A-Animal Science 59 (2009)2. - ISSN 0906-4702 - p. 104 - 120.
    space allowance - grass-silage - beef-cattle - feed-intake - growing cattle - rumen fermentation - finishing steers - housing systems - diet digestion - meat quality
    Welfare of growing bulls was evaluated using on-farm scoring modified by well-described test theory methods. Production parameters of the bulls were collected at slaughter. A positive relationship was observed between on-farm welfare, using the full A-Index score, and daily carcass gain of bulls. This association was not observed with the more consistently defined welfare using the partial A-Index with selected items. Space allowance, feeding method, ration formulation and dehorning status at group level were the most important measured factors associated with daily carcass gain of the bulls. Given this association and the cohort design of the study, it is hypothesised that there is a causative relationship between the underlying welfare concept and daily carcass gain.
    Bacteriological contamination, dirt, and cracks of eggshells in furnished cages and noncage systems for laying hens: An international on-farm comparison
    Reu, K. de; Rodenburg, T.B. ; Messens, W. ; Heyndrickx, M. ; Tuyttens, F. ; Sonck, B. ; Zoons, J. ; Herman, L. - \ 2009
    Poultry Science 88 (2009)11. - ISSN 0032-5791 - p. 2442 - 2448.
    housing systems - conventional cages - egg quality - health - performance - design - hybrid - layers - flora
    For laying hens, the effects of housing system on bacterial eggshell contamination and eggshell quality is almost exclusively studied in experimental hen houses. The aim of this study was to compare eggshell hygiene and quality under commercial conditions. Six flocks of laying hens in furnished cages and 7 flocks in noncage systems were visited when hens were about 60 wk of age. Farms from Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany were included in the study. The following parameters were determined on eggs sampled at the egg belts: 1) bacterial eggshell contamination, as expressed by total count of aerobic bacteria and number of Enterobacteriaceae; 2) proportion of dirty eggs; and 3) proportion of cracked eggs and eggs with microcracks. Considerable within-flock differences were found in eggshell contamination with total count of aerobic bacteria, both for furnished cages (P 0.001, range 4.24 to 5.22 log cfu/eggshell) and noncage systems (P 0.001, range 4.35 to 5.51 log cfu/eggshell). On average, lower levels of contamination with total count of aerobic bacteria (4.75 vs. 4.98 log cfu/eggshell; P 0.001) were found on eggshells from furnished cages compared with noncage systems. Concerning Enterobacteriaceae, no significant difference in average eggshell contamination between both systems could be shown. The total percentage of cracked eggs was higher (P 0.01) in furnished cages (7.8%) compared with noncage systems (4.1%). This was, however, due to the high percentage of cracked eggs (24%) observed on one of the furnished cage farms. We conclude that bacteriological eggshell contamination and percentage of cracked eggs differed substantially between individual farms using the same housing system. This may also explain some discrepancies between the findings of the present study versus some findings of previous experimental studies or studies on a small number of farms. Although statistically significant, the average differences in bacteriological contamination of nest eggs between both housing systems have limited microbiological relevancy
    Aggregation of measures to produce an overall assessment of animal welfare. Part 1: a review of existing methods
    Botreau, R. ; Bonde, M. ; Butterworth, A. ; Perny, P. ; Bracke, M.B.M. ; Capdeville, J. ; Veissier, I. - \ 2007
    Animal 1 (2007)8. - ISSN 1751-7311 - p. 1179 - 1187.
    on-farm welfare - housing systems - behavioral measures - science - parameters - validity - values - cattle - health
    Several systems have been proposed for the overall assessment of animal welfare at the farm level for the purpose of advising farmers or assisting public decision-making. They are generally based on several measures compounded into a single evaluation, using different rules to assemble the information. Here we discuss the different methods used to aggregate welfare measures and their applicability to certification schemes involving welfare. Data obtained on a farm can be (i) analysed by an expert who draws an overall conclusion; (ii) compared with minimal requirements set for each measure; (iii) converted into ranks, which are then summed; or (iv) converted into values or scores compounded in a weighted sum (e.g. TGI35L) or using ad hoc rules. Existing methods used at present (at least when used exclusively) may be insufficiently sensitive or not routinely applicable, or may not reflect the multidimensional nature of welfare and the relative importance of various welfare measures. It is concluded that different methods may be used at different stages of the construction of an overall assessment of animal welfare, depending on the constraints imposed on the aggregation process
    The Laywell project: welfare implications of changes in production systems for laying hens
    Blokhuis, H.J. ; Fiks, T.G.C.M. ; Bessei, W. ; Elson, H.A. ; Guémené, D. ; Kjaer, J.B. ; Maria Levrino, G.A. ; Nicol, C.J. ; Tauson, R.K. ; Weeks, C.A. ; Weerd, H.A. v.d. - \ 2007
    Worlds Poultry Science Journal 63 (2007)1. - ISSN 0043-9339 - p. 101 - 114.
    furnished cages - housing systems - priorities - health - size - fear
    The conditions under which laying hens are kept remain a major animal welfare concern. It is one of the most intensive forms of animal production and the number of animals involved is very high. Widespread public debate has stimulated the call for more animal friendly, alternative systems to barren conventional cages. Directive 1999/74/EC has encouraged technical changes in current systems. Not only have traditional cages been modified (so-called 'enriched cages'), but also new alternative systems (e.g. aviaries) have been developed. There is an ongoing need to evaluate the actual welfare status of hens in these novel systems including those on commercial farms. The LayWel project, was funded via the European Commission's Sixth Framework Programme and national funding from several EU countries. Its general objective was to produce an evaluation of the welfare of laying hens in various systems, with special focus on enriched cages, and to disseminate the information in all member states of the EU and associated countries. The project took into account pathological, zootechnical, physiological and ethological aspects. A major achievement of the LayWel project was the compilation of a database collecting data from different housing systems and thus enabling data comparison. The project partners recommend that support is given to maintaining the database in the future so that data can be more reliably modelled. As the type of data collected did not often allow a formal statistical analysis the evaluation of welfare was a presentation of risk factors and advantages and disadvantages of various housing systems. Conclusions are that, with the exception of conventional cages, all systems have the potential to provide satisfactory welfare for laying hens. However this potential is not always realised in practice. Among the numerous explanations are management, climate, design, different responses by different genotypes and interacting effects. A second major achievement of the project was the development of feather scoring and integument (skin, head and feet) scoring systems together with comprehensive sets of photographs. It is recommended that the integument scoring systems are widely adopted and used in on-going research. Farms should also routinely and frequently carry out integument scoring to assist in the detection of damaging pecking, which is currently a widespread welfare problem. Within LayWel an on-farm auditing procedure was developed in the form of a manual for self-assessment. The manual first explains what is meant by welfare and outlines the relevance of welfare assessment. It also summarises risks to welfare in the main categories of housing system. The second part contains recording forms, with guidance for assessing hen welfare. These enable regular checks of a range of indicators of laying hen welfare to be carried out systematically. The indicators were chosen to be relevant to hen welfare as well as feasible and reliable to apply in practice. A series of conclusions and recommendations were made on various aspects of housing systems, behaviour, health and mortality and other matters in relation to bird welfare. Full details of these and all other aspects of the LayWel project can be found on The information is also available on CDROM of which copies are freely available on request.
    Animal based parameters are no panacea for on-farm monitoring of animal welfare
    Bracke, M.B.M. - \ 2007
    Animal Welfare 16 (2007)2. - ISSN 0962-7286 - p. 229 - 231.
    decision-support-system - housing systems - semantic model - part - needs - risk - pigs
    On-farm monitoring of animal welfare is an important, present-day objective in animal welfare science. Scientists tend to focus exclusively on animal-based parameters, possibly because using environment-based parameters could be begging the question why welfare has been affected and because animal-based parameters would be better indicators of welfare. However, selection of even the best animal-based parameters that have conventionally been used in experiments could have unacceptable consequences. Systems that are generally considered to be poor welfare systems may generate unacceptably high welfare scores. The monitoring systems could fail to match basic intuitions in society and the scientific community. In order to avoid this problem, available knowledge, eg about animal motivation derived from consumer demand studies and knowledge about the natural behaviour of the animals, should be used explicitly in welfare assessment. This requires making welfare inferences from knowledge about the relationships between environment-based and animal-based parameters using standard operating procedures. The on-farm measurement of animal-based parameters may be regarded as the measurement of critical control points, which must be compared and reconciled with predictions based on available scientific knowledge. For this purpose the formalisation of welfare assessment should be developed further.
    On-farm quantification of sustainability indicators: an application to egg production sytems
    Mollenhorst, H. ; Berentsen, P.B.M. ; Boer, I.J.M. de - \ 2006
    British Poultry Science 47 (2006)4. - ISSN 0007-1668 - p. 405 - 417.
    laying hens - feather pecking - environmental-impact - alternative systems - livestock buildings - housing systems - northern europe - health - associations - cannibalism
    1. On-farm quantification of sustainability indicators (SI) is an effective way to make sustainable development measurable. The egg production sector was used as a case study to illustrate this approach. 2. The objective was to select SI for economic, ecological and societal issues, and to analyse the performance on selected SI of different production systems. 3. For the case study, we compared 4 egg production systems, characterised by differences in the housing systems which are most common in the Netherlands: the battery-cage system, the deep-litter system with and without outdoor run, and the aviary system with outdoor run. 4. Based on a clear set of criteria, we selected SI for animal welfare, economics, environmental impact, ergonomics and product quality. 5. We showed that on-farm quantification of SI was an appropriate method to identify the strengths and weaknesses of different systems. 6. From this analysis it appears that the aviary system with outdoor run is a good alternative for the battery-cage system, with better scores for the aviary system on animal welfare and economics, but with worse scores on environmental impact.
    On-farm assessment of laying hen welfare: a comparison of one environment-based and two animal-based methods
    Mollenhorst, H. ; Rodenburg, T.B. ; Bokkers, E.A.M. ; Koene, P. ; Boer, I.J.M. de - \ 2005
    Applied Animal Behaviour Science 90 (2005)3-4. - ISSN 0168-1591 - p. 277 - 291.
    feather-pecking - alternative systems - housing systems - behavior - management - indicators - associations - prevalence - needs - cage
    Methods available to assess animal welfare at farm level are based on a range of welfare parameters, which can be divided into two categories, environment-based and animal-based parameters. The first category describes features of the environment and management, which can be considered prerequisites for welfare. The second category records animals' responses to that particular environment and management more directly. Objective of this study was to validate a mainly environment-based method, the animal needs index (ANI), with animal-based methods: behavioural observations and feather condition scores (FCS). The study was conducted on 20 commercial laying hen farms, 10 farms with battery cages and 10 farms with deep litter systems. During a 1-day visit on each farm, ANI was assessed, FCS was scored, and behavioural observations were performed. Instantaneous scan sampling and continuous focal sampling were used to assess the time spent on different behaviours and the occurrence of event behaviours. Data from behavioural observations and FCS were reduced with principal factor analysis. This resulted in two factors for each method. Significant positive correlations were found between ANI, on the one hand, and 'movement' and 'comfort', two factors from behavioural observations, on the other hand. A significant negative correlation was found between ANI and 'wing damage' (from FCS). The results of this study show that ANI is valid and sensitive enough to show differences in animal welfare between housing systems, whereas differences in welfare within housing systems cannot be shown. In conclusion, ANI is an appropriate method for assessment of laying hen welfare on a large number of farms with different housing systems.
    Identifying sustainability issues using participatory SWOT analysis - A case study of egg production in the Netherlands
    Mollenhorst, H. ; Boer, I.J.M. de - \ 2004
    Outlook on Agriculture 33 (2004)4. - ISSN 0030-7270 - p. 267 - 276.
    ammonia emissions - housing systems - quality - america - cages
    The aim of this paper was to demonstrate how participatory strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis can be used to identify relevant economic, ecological and societal (EES) issues for the assessment of sustainable development. This is illustrated by the case of egg production in the Netherlands. Participatory methods are used to facilitate the exchange of ideas, experiences and knowledge of all relevant stakeholders and to create a basis for implementation of the final results. It can be concluded that the combination of a brainstorming session and SWOT analysis with a heterogeneous group of stakeholders constitutes a useful tool to order and structure these listed aspects and to identify relevant issues for sustainable development. Final selection of EES issues from the SWOT analysis, however, required additional reviewing of the literature and consultation with experts from specific fields. Final EES issues selected in the case study of Dutch egg production include welfare and health, environment, quality, ergonomics, economics, consumer concerns, and knowledge and innovation
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