Why and How to Measure Goats’ Welfare



Sustainability, animal welfare and environmental concerns have increased consumers’ interest in knowing how, where and by whom food is produced and handled from ‘farm to fork’. But even if consumers did not object to poor animal welfare, there is enough evidence that good welfare corresponds to better performance and higher quality products. It is well established that animals with poor welfare have suboptimal performances or demand artificial ways of maintaining health and production. Comprehensive welfare assessment is not easy as animal welfare is a multidimensional and complex concept. However, it can be achieved through well-built assessment protocols. These protocols are also excellent tools to discern and monitor disease prevalence (e.g. lameness) and to track changes within the same farm over time as a part of good farm management. Welfare protocols should be devised to fully cover four Welfare Principles (Welfare Quality®—WQ): good feeding; good housing; good health; and appropriate behaviour. This is achieved by including and testing different types of indicators. Currently, welfare assessment is established mainly on animal-based indicators or also called output measures, complemented with some resource-based indicators. The ‘AWIN-animal welfare indicators’ was a large European project dedicated to developing, integrating and disseminating animal-based welfare indicators for different farms species, including goats. From the work of one of its research teams resulted a welfare assessment protocol for intensively kept dairy goats that is an excellent basis for the building of protocols for other production systems. Designing an assessment protocol is a challenging and laborious process that should start by identifying valid, reliable and feasible welfare indicators for goats in different agro-systems. This chapter presents the basis for the construction of a welfare assessment protocol and suggests some indicators to be included in the assessment of goats extensively managed in arid, semi-arid or in poor environmental conditions.



We wish to acknowledge the AWIN team that worked with dairy goats, namely Ana Vieira, Inês Ajuda, Monica Battini and Silvana Mattielo. Also, Inês Canavarro for her work on the welfare in extensively and family kept dairy goats.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Animal Behaviour and Welfare Research LabCentre for Interdisciplinary Research in Animal Health, Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária, Universidade de LisboaLisbonPortugal

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