Animal health and welfare have become topics of increasing public interest. Especially improvements in the health and welfare of food-producing animals are currently being intensively researched. To be able to routinely assess the quality of health and welfare of individual pig herds for benchmarking purposes in a simple and robust way, a short and easy to use measuring tool is needed.
Since the very elaborate assessment tools of the Welfare Quality (R) (WQ) project (FOOD-CT-2004-506508) are too time-consuming for an assessment during a regular veterinary herd visit, easy to record indicators were targetly selected and supplemented by new elements in order to combine a number of measurements in one indicator, using the theoretical concept of iceberg indicators, which are thought to trigger further scrutiny into the management of pig herds that reveal potential deficiencies.
The thus created simplified Herd Health and Welfare Index (HHWI) shows a theoretical range of 10 (very good) to a maximum of 30 (very bad) index points. It has been demonstrated that it can be used as an animal welfare measurement tool to compare herds within a group of pig herds that are measured by the same set of criteria. The HHWI has proven to be a rough, semi-quantitative, and a less elaborate tool than, for example, the complete protocol of the WQ-project. All in all, the HHWI has a broader range of application possibilities than the WQ-protocol due to its reduced number of criteria for the assessment of the health and welfare status of pig herds.