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.