Development and assessment of welfare indicators (#669)
Animal welfare is an important issue for any industry, in terms of both economic returns and community attitudes. Meeting the requirements and demands of industry, consumers and the broader public is an on-going challenge for livestock industries. Societal demands for sustainable and ethical animal production systems and practices will continue, and therefore industry must remain proactive in their effort to ensure the welfare of the animals. Currently, there are very few welfare measures used in the livestock industries. Mortality is one measure that is regularly used; however, a single incidence of high mortality contributes towards negative community attitudes, while the continued efforts made by industry towards managing animal welfare along the supply chain go unrecognised. Additionally, mortality only indicates problems retrospectively and do not identify areas where conditions could be modified or welfare improved prospectively. Rather than only being alerted once there is a problem identifying issues earlier may potentially avoid negative incidents, and provide solutions through pre-emptive modifications and adaptive management. Other key indicators of animal welfare have been identified, such as clinical disease, wet bulb temperature, space allowance, and change in body weight. However, some of these indicators have little potential for broad application or practicality of use. Furthermore, for many measures, the baseline information that would allow deviance from optimum and/or critical levels to be detected has not been established. This presentation aims to identify key welfare indicators that are practical for assessing livestock, are economical, and are measurable and quantifiable.