Should the contribution of one additional lame cow depend on how many other cows on the farm are lame?

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Welfare Quality® proposes a system for aggregation according to which the total welfare score for a group of animals is a non-linear effect of the prevalence of welfare scores across the individuals within the group. Three assumptions serve to justify this: (1) experts do not follow a linear reasoning when they assess a welfare problem; (2) it serves to prevent compensation (severe welfare problems hidden by scoring well on other aspects of welfare); (3) experts agree on the weight of different welfare measures. We use two sources of data to examine these assumptions: animal welfare data from 44 Danish dairy farms with Danish Holstein Friesian cows, and data from a questionnaire study with a convenience sample of 307 experts in animal welfare, of which we received responses from over 50%. Our main results were: (1) the total group-level welfare score as assigned by experts is a non-linear function of the individual animal welfare states within the group; (2) the WQ system does not prevent what experts perceive as unacceptable compensation; (3) the level of agreement among experts appears to vary across measures. Our findings give rise to concerns about the proposed aggregation system offered by WQ.

Original languageEnglish
Article number96
Issue number12
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

    Research areas

  • Aggregation, Animal welfare, Expert perception, Lameness, Welfare assessment, Welfare quality®

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