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The contribution of qualitative behavioural assessment to appraisal of livestock welfare

Fleming, P.A.ORCID: 0000-0002-0626-3851, Clarke, T., Wickham, S.L., Stockman, C.A., Barnes, A.L.ORCID: 0000-0002-7227-230X, Collins, T.ORCID: 0000-0003-4597-0812 and Miller, D.W.ORCID: 0000-0002-4634-5819 (2016) The contribution of qualitative behavioural assessment to appraisal of livestock welfare. Animal Production Science, 56 . pp. 1569-1578.

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Animal welfare is increasingly important for the Australian livestock industries, to maintain social licence to practice as well as ensuring market share overseas. Improvement of animal welfare in the livestock industries requires several important key steps. Paramount among these, objective measures are needed for welfare assessment that will enable comparison and contrast of welfare implications of husbandry procedures or housing options. Such measures need to be versatile (can be applied under a wide range of on- and off-farm situations), relevant (reveal aspects of the animal’s affective or physiological state that is relevant to their welfare), reliable (can be repeated with confidence in the results), relatively economic to apply, and they need to have broad acceptance by all stakeholders. Qualitative Behavioural Assessment (QBA) is an integrated measure that characterises behaviour as a dynamic, expressive body language. QBA is a versatile tool requiring little specialist equipment suiting application to in situ assessments that enables comparative, hypothesis-driven evaluation of various industry-relevant practices. QBA is being increasingly used as part of animal welfare assessments in Europe, and although most other welfare assessment methods record ‘problems’ (e.g. lameness, injury scores, and so on), QBA can capture positive aspects of animal welfare (e.g. positively engaged with their environment, playfulness). In this viewpoint, we review the outcomes of recent QBA studies and discuss the potential application of QBA, in combination with other methods, as a welfare assessment tool for the Australian livestock industries.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: CSIRO Publishing
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