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BEEP: An advisory pig welfare assessment tool developed by farmers for farmers

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Valérie Courboulay et al., Livestock Science, 2020, volume 240, octobre

Farm animal welfare is now an obvious goal for all livestock stakeholders. However, the ways to improve it are neither easy nor evident for animal caretakers or their advisers. Most welfare assessment tools are not designed to be used by farmers but by scientists, vets, breeding advisers or certification bodies. Our project hypothesised that animal welfare could be improved more markedly if farmers could assess the welfare of their pigs themselves, and discuss it with their breeding advisers. Sixteen voluntary farmers, five voluntary breeding advisers, three scientific experts on pig welfare, a pig veterinarian and a specialist in co-design worked together to develop a pig welfare evaluation tool that could be used for self-assessment on pig farms. The tool was constructed in four steps: 1) identifying pig welfare indicators, 2) selecting the best indicators and developing a measurement protocol, 3) testing the tool on farms, 4) giving farmers feedback and validating the tool. All the steps were carried out through working groups. Discussions on welfare indicators led to a list of the most important indicators according to the farmers and advisers, focusing on Welfare Quality® Protocol items “good feeding, good housing, good health and appropriate behaviour”. To be useful on farms, each indicator selected was reformulated into one or more measurements. The tool, known as “BEEP”, currently consists of a folder of documents to be brought onto farms. It focuses only on growing pigs and was designed to take no more than two hours to implement. The BEEP tool makes farmers aware of animal welfare issues and helps them to improve the welfare of their livestock. BEEP is currently being disseminated in France, where the farmers are trained to use it. It is positively welcomed by other farmers and their representatives as it was developed with and for farmers. The next step is to develop an electronic application.

2020