Mondragón-Ancelmo, J., García Hernández, P., Rojo Rubio, R. et al. 2020. Small flocks show higher levels of welfare in Mexican semi-intensive sheep farming systems. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 23(3), 348-355.
In order to assess the level of sheep welfare in small traditional farms as compared with farms of increased size we evaluated several animal-based parameters and applied a modified Animal Needs Index (ANI) protocol in farms located in the North-East of the country. We selected ten sheep farms: 5 farms had less than 20 ewes per flock (Group L20), whereas 5 farms had more than 20 ewes per flock (Group M20). Based on the recordings performed using the ANI scheme Group L20 constantly showed higher scores as compared with Group M20. In Group M20 a higher proportion of animals was affected by skin and wool damages, low body condition, tail mutilation, ocular discharge, nasal discharge, diarrhoea (P < 0.05) and lameness (P < 0.01). We observed a higher percentage of non-anaemic animals in group L20 and a higher percentage of anaemic animals in Group M20 (P < 0.01). Although based on a small sample, our results showed that several animal-based measures were able to discriminate the two groups of farms with higher levels of animal welfare detected in small flocks.