November 16 2005

Summarising notes LayWel stakeholders meeting 16th November 2005, Brussels

This WP is meant to set a general starting point for the Laywel project and to have agreement on what parameters are important for measuring welfare.
By measuring welfare the difficulties are:

This WP gives a description of the various housing systems in more detail than is given in the EUDirective 1999/74. For the LayWel project this is needed to be able to draw any conclusions on housing systems.
The definition of what is a cage and what is a non-cage system is taken over from the EFSA report "The welfare aspects of various systems of keeping laying hens". This report has been made following a request from the Commission to EFSA and forms the basis of the opinion of the Scientific Panel on Animal Health and Animal Welfare. The definition of a cage, as given in this report, is not set by any legislation, but is based on experts’ opinion and consensus.

The LayWel project has produced a database with many results from both lab studies and results from
commercial farms with various housing systems for laying hens. The database contains very valuable
information for the broad evaluation of various systems. There are a few problems however:

The problems could be solved partly when more information would be added from ongoing studies. also for future evaluation of systems an ongoing update of the database would be very valuable. However, budget is missing to do so. Stakeholders are asked to come up with ideas and support to fund the updating of the database in future years.

One of the major parameters with regards to health is mortality. The database provides data from various systems. However, as explained the effect of partner is a difficulty and for instance influences the results with regards to furnished cages.
On the basis of the data in the database it can be concluded that mortality is higher in large group cages then in small group cages. Recent trials of ADAS and Germany do not show higher mortality for larger group cages. However, these results are not included in the database and time is lacking to do
so during the lifetime of the present project. Budget needs to be generated to update the database in a later stage. The reason for the lower mortality in the UK and German studies is not clear. It could be an improved management and/or design.

Dustbathing behaviour consists of different phases with specific behavioural elements. The first phase contains sitting down, rubbing the feathers, stretching the leg to the side, etc. Shaking of the feathers is part of the last phase. This is almost never seen in cages. This means that dustbathing behaviour is
generally not complete in furnished cages and this may indicate frustration. If the resources needed to show complete dustbathing behaviour are not available, hens can't finish the behaviour. An indication of this is that the first part of the behavioural pattern is repeated in a way that is not according to the normal pattern of the behaviour.

Several new trials where physiological data are measured are conducted and some results were shown. Physiological parameters are not always easy to interpret and thus difficult in determining the welfare of hens. In addition to other parameters they can provide useful additional information on the welfare status of hens.

Productivity is not a very strong parameter for poultry welfare, as reduced welfare is not immediately reflected in the production. And also good production is no guarantee for good welfare. From the database various production parameters per housing system are presented. The data are limited and no clear differences due to system are found.

The approach for evaluating welfare for different housing systems was presented and agreed on.

Dissemination of results
The results are several papers and reports, a scoring system for exterior of hens and an evaluation of housing systems. These will be put on a CD-rom. The idea is to make a lay-out like a website, so the results can easily be found.

General discussion
As one of the major Work packages, WP7, is not yet ready the stakeholders would like to get an opportunity to comment on the last draft of the report of this WP. Also some other WPs will be modified and a last opportunity to comment on those is requested as well. Blokhuis states that the LayWelproject needs to be finished in time and it is not sure if there is time to provide the stakeholders with a last chance to comment. However, efforts will be made to realise this. 05-12-2005/ Thea Fiks

Agenda stakeholders meeting 161105Agenda 161105.pdf