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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Animal Welfare Assessment Protocols for Bulls in Artificial Insemination Centers: Requirements, Principles, and Criteria

Cojkic, Aleksandar; Morrell, Jane M.


During the last 70 years, the bull semen industry has been trying to maximize reproduction efficiency to meet demands. Changes in public attitudes towards the conditions under which domestic animals are kept have led to questions being raised about animal husbandry and its impact on animal welfare. Protocols for bull welfare assessment in artificial insemination centers and how welfare disturbances can reflect on bull productivity have not previously been taken into consideration. Welfare is important for the bull industry because, apart from the known consequences of stress on reproductive parameters and performance, stress can also influence the onset of puberty and cause other health problems. Therefore, it would be useful to have an early indicator of an incipient welfare problem so that countermeasures could be taken in time to prevent such long-term effects on the animals. Different protocols have been developed for specific animal species and production groups/systems based on their biology, husbandry, management, and breeding, and care guidelines formulated. Different housing conditions, poor feeding during rearing and production, as well as poor health status have all been shown to affect bulls negatively and are reflected in sperm quality and animal fertility.Animal welfare is a complex subject; as such, it requires a multidimensional approach with the main aim of providing the animals with the "five freedoms". The violations of any one of these freedoms could have an influence on animal wellbeing on different levels. Over the years, many welfare quality protocols were developed in the EU thanks to the Welfare Quality((R)) project. Unfortunately, there is a lack of such summarized information about bull welfare assessment in artificial insemination stations or about how disturbed welfare can be reflected in their productivity. Animal reproduction is the basis for the production of meat and milk; therefore, factors contributing to reduced fertility in bulls are not only indicators of animal welfare but also have implications for human health and the environment. Optimizing the reproductive efficiency of bulls at an early age can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In this review, welfare quality assessment will be evaluated for these production animals using reproduction efficiency as a key area, focusing on stress as a main effect of poor animal welfare and, thereby, reduced fertility. We will address various welfare aspects and possible changes in resources or management to improve outcomes.


animal welfare; bulls; welfare assessment; reproduction; sperm quality

Published in

2023, Volume: 13, number: 5, article number: 942
Publisher: MDPI