Animal welfare is an issue of increasing concern in the society.
In order to document and evaluate the welfare state of farm animals in an objective way, welfare indicators and protocols have been developed. Most of these have focused on negative aspects of an animal’s life and manifestations such as diseases, lesions, distress, low productivity, and abnormal behaviours. Thus, the focus has traditionally been on alleviating animal suffering. However, following claims on more animal friendly farming systems, the goal has shifted from merely preventing poor welfare and suffering to actively promote good welfare and respect for animals, which is stated in the Animal Welfare Act. Thus, animals should have lives well worth living. Negative experiences, which are sometimes unavoidable, can be outweighed by positive experiences, resulting in an overall positive welfare balance and long-term benefit to the animal. The investigation into valid and reliable indicators of positive farm animal welfare is therefore of great importance, both to inform policy makers and to envisage ways to improve housing systems and management routines. However, few validated positive welfare indicators exist. This will be one of the first studies of this kind and CalfComfort will explore both behaviour and selected biomarkers as candidate indicators for positive welfare states.
The main objective of CalfComfort is to improve dairy calf welfare by developing positive welfare indicators of good health and fulfilled behavioral needs.