Farm Animal Well Being

People are at the heart of farm animal well-being.

People care for farm animals, design the environment they live in, consume animal products, and set policies about welfare standards.
Behaviours performed by people strongly impact animal well-being.

To understand how we can improve animal well-being, we first need to understand the needs of the animal and how they are affected by people’s behaviour.
But in order to effect change, we ultimately need to understand and change the behaviour of people.

Using behavioural science to improve farm animal well-being

Behavioural science can help us better understand human behaviour in the context of farm animal well-being.

It can enable us to design interventions that target the root causes of the behaviours and are acceptable and feasible to stakeholders, thereby having the best chance of improving farm animal well-being.

Example behaviours that affect farm animal well-being

Example behaviours that affect farm animal well-being

“With the expertise of Innovia, we will better understand farmers’ behaviour and motivations and analyse how their choices can affect cattle well-being.”
Dr Laurent Goby, Boehringer Ingelheim (Project leader)

Anna Wilson

“Behavioural science can enable us to design interventions that target the root causes of the behaviours and are acceptable and feasible to stakeholders, thereby having the best chance of improving cattle well-being”

Dr Anna Wilson, Innovia



Why have we taken a behavioural-science approach to this project?

This approach ensures that we focus on a specific behaviour (such as administering pain relief after a painful procedure such as calf dehorning).

Unless there is a specified target behaviour, interventions are likely to target the wrong barriers and are likely to be ineffective.

It is very hard to change multiple behaviours simultaneously – trying to do so often leads to unfocused and ineffective solutions.

This approach provides us with a framework to think systematically about the barriers and promoters of the specific target behaviour.

Katie Morton

“Our evidence-based diagnostic framework helps us to navigate complexity and lower risk by focusing on the most relevant factors that are known to effect behaviour identified from validated behavioural-science models. This model is populated by data gathered through qualitative and quantitative research with our target population. ”

Katie Morton, Innovia



The behavioural-science approach helps us to select the right types of interventions for the problem that we are trying to solve. For example,

should the intervention be educational or persuasive?
Or a combination of both?

Single interventions rarely work in isolation, so we need to develop multiple interventions that work in harmony with each other, to give the highest likelihood of changing behaviour.

Stage 1 of the project: selection of a target factor

The objective of stage 1 was to select one target factor that impacts cattle well-being to focus on for the remainder of the project. To identify such factors, Innovia took a ground-up approach. Specifically, the predominant focus was the findings from the 12th Expert Forum on Farm Animal Well-Being, supplemented with Innovia’s own research. This process enabled us to develop a list of priority areas for consideration during the end-of-stage-1 meeting.



A target factor is defined by factors from two or more domains.

For example, the following could be candidate target factors: pain caused by lameness, pain caused by mastitis, distress caused by overcrowding during transport.

This is the level of specificity we needed to reach when selecting a factor to focus on in this project.

At the end of stage 1 the joint BI-Innovia core team selected the “detection and treatment of pain, with a focus on mastitis, respiratory disease and assisted calving” as the target factor to focus on for next step of the project.


Stage 2 of the project: defining a target behaviour

The key objective of the stage 2 process of the FAWB project was to define a target behaviour – relating to the target factor decided in stage 1.
To achieve this objective, Innovia identified and defined the multitude of farmer and vet behaviours that could be fruitful targets for intervention – relating to the project’s selected target factor: improved pain detection and treatment associated with mastitis, respiratory disease and assisted calving.

Target behaviour: Defining something as a target behaviour has a number of different components to satisfy. These include, an observable response that directly impacts the well-being (specifically, pain management in this case) of cattle; an action component (someone doing something); and ideally some description of context and time (where and when the behaviour is occurring).

Hence, Innovia ensued an iterative process that involved carrying out interviews with vets and farmers, as well as desk-based research to help identify and define "gold-standard" and "usual" vet and farmer behaviours relating to the target factor.

"The gold standards are helpful, because it is critical to have an idea of the desired behaviours (what you want farmers and vets to do differently), before designing
an effective change behaviour programme."

Dr Katie Morton, Innovia

The findings were analysed by the Innovia team and brought to discussions with the core project team. At the end of stage 2, the core team eventually decided to refine the target factor (the ultimate goal of the Behaviour Change Programme) as follows:

"To reduce pain and discomfort associated with assisted calving."


The team subsequently defined the associated target behaviour (who we want to do what in order to achieve the target factor) as :

"Farmer complies with best practice for minimising pain and discomfort associated with assisted calving."