Welfare Assessment on Pasture: A Review on Animal-Based Measures for Ruminants

  • Key finding:

    Outdoor and extensive farming systems allow animals to behave in a natural way and are often perceived as welfare friendly. Nonetheless, the natural environment poses multiple challenges to the welfare of animals, sometimes hampering their capacity to cope. This study aimed at compiling a list of animal-based measures of welfare for domestic ruminants raised on outdoor/extensive systems by means of a systematic review. Out of 810 papers retrieved, 52 matched the inclusion criteria and went through an in-depth analysis. According to available literature, 45 indicators have been used to assess welfare on pasture, often following different methodologies. Most indicators were measured by observers even if the use of sensor technologies increased in recent years. Considering the growing interest for pasture-based or grass-fed products, the results of this study suggest that welfare assessment in outdoor/extensive farming systems should be carried out by following shared methodologies in order to provide evidence of the higher animal welfare claims that these products often imply compared to indoor systems.

Links to Open Access Publications or DOI:


Spigarelli C., Zuliani A., Battini M., Mattiello S. and Bovolenta S. 2020. Welfare Assessment on Pasture: A Review on Animal-Based Measures for Ruminants. Animals. 10(4), 609