Ranking experts' preferences regarding measures and methods of assessment of welfare in dairy herds using Adaptive Conjoint Analysis

Jan Lievaart, Jos Noordhuizen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Citations (Scopus)


Welfare in dairy herds can be addressed using different concepts. The difficulty is to extract which measures are the most important to practically addresswelfare at the herd level and the methods to assess traits considered mostimportant. Therefore, the preferences of 24 acknowledged European welfare expertswere ranked regarding 70 measures suitable to assess dairy cattle welfare at herdlevel using the Adaptive Conjoint Analysis (ACA; Sawtooth Software, Inc., Sequim,WA) technique. The experts were selected on the basis of 3 criteria: at least 5yr experience in animal welfare research; recent scientific publications in thefield of animal welfare; and, at the most, 3 animal species including dairycattle as their field of expertise. The 70 traits were ranked by using the medianACA questionnaire utility scores and the range between the answers of the 24experts. A high utility score with a low range between the answers of the expertswas considered as suitable to assess welfare at farm level. Measures meetingthese criteria were prevalence of lameness cases (107.3+/-11.7), competition for feed and water (96.4+/-13.9), and number of freestalls per 10 cows (84.8+/-13.3).Based on the utility score alone, these former measures were replaced bystereotypic behavior (111.7+/-17.1), prevalence of lameness cases (107.3+/-11.7),body condition score (108.0+/-18.9), and hock lesions (104.7+/-16.1).Subsequently, to demonstrate that the ACA technique can be used to rank eitherwell-known or inconclusive methods of assessment, the methods for the traitslameness cases and the hygiene of the calving pen were ranked using another 2 ACAquestionnaires. The results are based on the opinions of selected,internationally acknowledged dairy cattle welfare experts within the EuropeanUnion. In the future, other parties like dairy farmers and farmers'organization should be included to achieve consensus about the most suitable traits applicablein practice. The currently investigated traits do not always apply to all dairyhusbandry systems across the world, but are based on a system that includesindoor housing during winter. It is concluded that ACA is a useful technique torank the different scientific opinions of experts regarding suitable traits andmethods of assessment of dairy cattle at the herd level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3420-3427
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011

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