October 19, 2020

Interpretive Summary: German guideline for farm’s self-monitoring in sows and piglets

Interpretive Summary: Feasibility and reliability of a German guideline for farm’s self-monitoring in sows and piglets

By Anne Zinn

A research team out of Germany recently aimed to test a German guideline for farm’s self-monitoring in sows and piglets for its feasibility as well as its interobserver and test–retest reliability. Results of the study, recently published in the Journal of Animal Science, determined that this guideline has limited feasibility and cannot be recommended in its present form for the intended purpose. 

The first set of guidelines for a German farm’s self-monitoring in cattle, poultry, and pigs was published in 2016 by The Association for Technology and Structures in Agriculture and were developed by expert panels and based on animal welfare assessment protocols. Since then, new indicators have been introduced by involved experts which have not yet been subjected to testing for feasibility or reliability, such as claw alterations in sows or face lesions in piglets. Therefore, Friedrich et al. set out to test the feasibility of the German guideline for farm’s self-monitoring in sows and piglets in general and to evaluate the reliability of newly introduced indicators to ensure that the farm’s self monitoring is based on an objective assessment system.

Results of the study revealed the lack of feasibility of the guidelines, especially with regard to the time required and for the provision of the management-based indicators. In addition, the tested animal-based indicators mostly showed only sufficient reliability over time, but low interobserver reliability. This means the guideline cannot be used to compare different farms, and the results of a farm can only be analyzed over time if they are always collected by the same person. Several indicators do not have sufficient reliability to be used in an objective assessment system for animal welfare, which means the German guideline for farm’s self-monitoring in sows and pigs cannot be recommended in the present form and a revision is necessary.

The full paper can be found on the Journal of Animal Science website.