Courtney L. Daigle, PhD
Animal Behavior & Welfare Laboratory
Department of Animal Science
Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
Ensuring animal comfort is paramount to animal welfare. As we develop tools to quantify, benchmark, and assess animal welfare, animal comfort must be included in the metrics evaluated. Animal comfort can be assessed through individual behavior, social interactions, individual physical condition, and resource availability and upkeep. Comfortable animals are typically more productive; yet, the comfort state is fluid, dynamic, and individual specific. Understanding the relationship between individual animal behavior, changes in resource use, the ability of animals to cope with their environment, and animal comfort will enhance the ability of animal managers to respond as needed. One of the greatest challenges animal managers face is in identify when animals are beginning to experience discomfort (e.g., changes in temperature, air quality, onset of disease). The implementation and expanding adoption of precision agriculture provides animal managers with the tools needed to track individual animal behavior and resource use that may provide early signals of discomfort and facilitate maintenance of a good welfare state. These types of technologies can also be implemented to evaluate environmental conditions that impact animal welfare while providing feedback to animal managers. Increases in our ability to harness the information contained in big data collected via technological advancements will enhance animal management and facilitate collection of objective metrics of individual animal comfort and welfare while contributing to the overall productivity of our food system.