Animal welfare – general session

This general session follows the session about using AI to assess animal welfare and will take place on Wednesday 15th May in Meeting Room 4.

15:30 – 15:50 Claire Witham – Home cage monitoring of group-housed animals in highly enriched enclosures

Home cage monitoring is a key goal for animal welfare as it allows behavior assessment in a familiar setting without disturbance. There are challenges in adapting existing methods to species such as primates that are housed in groups in large, highly enriched enclosures. We propose an object segmentation method that detects the animals and many different objects in their enclosure. We demonstrate how this can be used with macaques to detect simple behaviors including foraging.

15:50 – 16:10 Ineke Smit – Quantifying equine facial expressions with optical motion capture and surface electromyography; a proof of concept

Facial expressions can be assessed to study emotional expression in horses, though existing tools often depend on subjective judgement. This study explores two methods to quantify facial expressions of horses through recordings of muscle activity and skin movement. Surface electromyography and optical motion capture were used to measure muscle activity of the m. frontalis and upper eyelid movement. Facial expressions in the eye region were successfully captured by both methods in a non-invasive way.

16:10 – 16:30 Monica Battini – Setting up an observation strategy to record feeding synchronization in dairy cows

This study aimed to establish a practical rule for recording feeding synchronization in dairy cows as a positive welfare indicator. Synchronization was observed for 60 minutes using instantaneous scan sampling (5-min intervals) in seven diverse contexts. Simulations revealed that a 10-minute scan interval provided information comparable to the 5-minute strategy, enhancing feasibility by allowing assessors to restore between scans. Combining longer scan intervals with a shorter 30-minute observation session proves time-efficient for on-farm welfare assessments.

16:30 – 16:50 Sonia Rey – Rhythmicity as a welfare indicator – effect of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation in equines

Rhythmicity represents an organism’s synchronization with its environment, and has thus been proposed to assess the well-being of animals. Such rhythms may however be affected by extrinsic zeitgebers due to management, and thus could blur welfare assessment. This study analyzes how diverse feeding regimens and intrinsic sleep motivation affect rhythmicity in equines. Using accelerometers, locomotor activity rhythmicity and lying behavior in two controlled experiments, this study evaluates the value of rhythmicity assessment in domesticated animals.

16:50 – 17:10 Janire Castellano Bueno – Bridging the Gap – Integrating Wild Animal Welfare into Behaviour Studies

The potential of a renewed interest in animal behaviour for welfare assessment is constrained by limited recognition of the value of reciprocal integration of welfare science into animal behaviour studies. This gap hampers our understanding of individual differences and worsens the replicability crisis, especially for wild animals. Emphasizing the importance of considering both behaviour and welfare, this discussion urges investigators to consider the critical importance of integrating animal welfare into studies of wild animal behaviour.