Mattiello, S., Battini, M., De Rosa, G. et al. 2019. How can we assess positive welfare in ruminants? Animals 9(10), 758.
Until now, most research has focused on the development of indicators of negative welfare, and relatively few studies provide information on valid, reliable, and feasible indicators addressing positive aspects of animal welfare. However, a lack of suffering does not guarantee that animals are experiencing a positive welfare state. The aim of the present review is to identify promising valid and reliable animal-based indicators for the assessment of positive welfare that might be included in welfare assessment protocols for ruminants, and to discuss them in the light of the five domains model, highlighting possible gaps to be filled by future research. Based on the existing literature in the main databases, each indicator was evaluated in terms of its validity, reliability, and on-farm feasibility. Some valid indicators were identified, but a lot of the validity evidence is based on their absence when a negative situation is present; furthermore, only a few indicators are available in the domains of Nutrition and Health. Reliability has been seldom addressed. On-farm feasibility could be increased by developing specific sampling strategies and/or relying on the use of video- or automatic-recording devices. In conclusion, several indicators are potentially available (e.g., synchronisation of lying and feeding, coat or fleece condition, qualitative behaviour assessment), but further research is required.