The use of positive animal welfare indicators in the dairy industry: Science and policy

Last changed: 13 September 2023
Photo: Black and white cow looking into the camera

The welfare of an animal is dependent on the balance between negative and positive experiences, but we lack ways to assess these positive experiences. This project aims to find practical and validated indicators for positive welfare in cattle and how best to implement them in practice to measure positive experiences in Swedish dairy cows.

Our aim is to develop a positive welfare assessment protocol for dairy cattle.  While most of the research on animal welfare has focused on the negative aspects of animal welfare, there is a move towards acknowledging the importance of the positive aspects and hence a growing interest in assessing positive emotions in animals. Including indicators of positive emotions in assessment protocols would give a more complete picture of cattle welfare as well as highlight the benefits of going beyond the ‘bottom line’ of complying with legislation.

This project consists of two large experimental studies; one carried out at SLU’s experimental farm to refine the observation methodology and one carried out on a large number of commercial dairy farms. We will also investigate the attitude of the stockperson and the economic performance of the farm in order to investigate how these are related to the level of welfare on the farm. At the end of the project, we will investigate potential future policies related to promoting positive welfare in dairy cattle by focus meetings and interviews with stakeholders, including consumers.


Partners involved:

  • Linda Keeling and Diana de Oliveira, Department of Animal Environment and Health, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden
  • Björn Forkman, Department of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Ann-Kristin Nyman and Louise Winblad von Walter, Växa Sverige, Stockholm, Sweden
  • Jacob Bull, Centre for Gender Research, Uppsala University, Sweden

Contact: Linda Keeling

Funding: Funded by the Swedish Research Council FORMAS