Zufferey, R., Minnig, A., Thomann, B. et al. 2021. Animal-based indicators for on-farm welfare assessment in sheep. Animals 11(10), 2973.
The value society assigns to animal welfare in agricultural productions is increasing, resulting in ever-enhancing methods to assess the well-being of farm animals. The aim of this study was to review the scientific literature to obtain an overview of the current knowledge on welfare assessments for sheep and to extract animal-based welfare indicators as well as welfare protocols with animal-based indicators. By title and abstract screening, we identified five protocols and 53 potential indicators from 55 references. Three out of the five protocols include animal-based as well as resource-based indicators. All of them were assessed as being practicable on-farm but lacking reliability. Some of the single indicators are endorsed by the literature and widely used in the field like assessment of behaviour, lameness or body condition score. Others (e.g., Faffa Malan Chart FAMACHA©, dag score or pain assessment) are regularly mentioned in the literature, but their reliability and usefulness are still subject of discussion. Several indicators, such as pruritic behaviour, eye condition, lying time or tooth loss are relatively new in the literature and still lack evidence for their validity and usefulness. This literature review serves as a starting point for the development of valid and practicable welfare protocols for sheep.