Management and Welfare

Farm animals – Identification and validation of animal-based welfare indicators, including physiological measures. Development of housing systems for lactating sows and piglets with high animal welfare standards. Assessment and treatment of pain in farm animals.
Companion animals - Identification and validation of animal-based welfare indicators, including physiological measures. Behavioral changes caused by fear and anxiety in dogs and cats. Use of pheromones for the prevention and treatment of behavioral problems in dogs and cats.
Zoo animals - Identification and validation of animal-based welfare indicators, including physiological measures. Development of protocols to assess zoo animal welfare.


Josep Gasa Gasó
Xavier Manteca Vilanova


Animal welfare and economic viability of intensive pig and cattle farms
This project is funded by the Spanish Government and its general objective is to deliver science-based, practical knowledge to pig and cattle producers to overcome current challenges related to animal welfare. It has four specific objectives: (1) to compare different manipulable materials for pigs from the standpoint of animal welfare, performance and economic sustainability, (2) to compare several alternatives to farrowing crates so that animal welfare is improved and the system is economically competitive and easy to implement in practice, (3) to compare different types of bedding for dairy cows and (4) to deliver practical recommendations on the amount of physically effective fibre needed to prevent sub-clinical acidosis in beef.
Contact Person: Xavier Manteca ( )
Using farm data and commercial assays to improve pig production
Sometimes basic research needs to be verified under farm conditions before being properly implemented and many times the most useful way to perform research with heavy pigs and sows is to use the animals in commercial farm conditions. In fact, analyzing and modelling commercial data produces practical recommendations and conclusions which may be directly applied, mainly to sows and growing finishing operations. This is especially right with management, welfare or feeding issues. Actually, we have been, and still are, involved in three specific topics: a) management and feeding young gilts, b) managing and feeding sows (gestating and lactating) and c) modelling growth and managing the pig variability from birth to slaughtering.
Some of the results published in recent years deal with: a) effect of colostrum and cross fostering over the weaned litter and sow, b) effect of the curve or level of feeding during gestation over the litter at birth and weaning and over the sow in the whole production cycle, c) impact of the main production factors affecting feed intake, average daily growth and feed conversion ratio of growing finishing pigs in Spanish pig business.
Contact Person: Josep Gasa (
Hair cortisol as a measure of chronic stress in domestic cats
Stress related problems are very common in owned cats and have a strong negative impact on both the welfare of the cat and the human-cat bond, particularly when the stress condition becomes chronic. Tis project is funded by Purina and its general objective is to validate hair cortisol as a measure of chronic stress in owned cats. In order to do this, a hair sample will be obtained from a significant number of owned cats with stress-related behavioral problems as well as from control cats. Cortisol concentration will be determined in order to (1) analyze if hair cortisol concentration is consistent over time in a given individual and (2) find out if stressed cats have higher hair cortisol concentration than control cats.
Contact Person: Xavier Manteca ( )
Identification and validation of animal-based indicators to assess welfare in zoo animals
Animal welfare has become a priority for modern zoos and aquaria. In order to identify problem areas and monitor improvement strategies, science-based indicators of animal welfare are needed. The general objective of this project is to identify and validate animal-based indicators (e.g. changes in behavior, physiological parameters and record-based information such as longevity and disease prevalence) to assess welfare in a variety of zoo animals. The project is done in collaboration with several zoological institutions in Spain and elsewhere. Initially, the project will focus on marine mammals but it is expected that in the near future it will cover other taxonomic groups as well.
Contact Person: Xavier Manteca ( )


Development of different animal identification systems (ruminal boluses, injectable transponders and ear-tag transponders) for cattle, sheep, goats and pigs, so as to guarantee the traceability of animals and animal products

Gerardo Caja López


Development of sensor technology suitable for monitoring feeding and behavior of small dairy ruminants.  Cost Action FA1308 DairyCare SWIG
The project specifically targets an area of interest with deliverables associated with monitoring welfare and feeding behavior. It will focus directly on a miniaturized bolus to monitor and quantify the processes associated with rumen function and activity of dairy sheep and goats. The project has broad relevance to the deliverable area of sensors development and monitoring/sensing models as they are specific to each species and exploitation conditions. With this aim, the research team will produce a suitable bolus and the adequate software for collecting and modelling the rumen function and feeding behavior of dairy sheep and goats under extreme feeding and management conditions.
Contact person: Gerardo Caja (
Bioclimatic effects in sheep and goat: Response levels, development of sensors and new control strategies.AGL2013-44061-R. Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad MINECO (2016-2017)
The Spanish climatic diversity and the threat of climate change, with rising temperatures and occurrence of waves of heat and cold in unexpected seasons, are a concern for the agricultural sector. The impact of these changes on the large population of Spanish sheep and goats, which are produced under different conditions and with different purposes, is unknown.This project prioritizes the study of bioclimatic effects on dairy sheep and goats. This research addresses 8 experimental objectives, divided into 2 areas of research (A, animal; B, sensors), as follows: A1) search for indicators of heat and cold stress, A2) evaluation of the effects of shearing under heat stress (summer) and cold (winter) conditions; A3) assessment of the epigenetic and immunological effects of heat stress; A4) evaluation of new feeding strategies to mitigate the effects of heat stress; B1) developing radio frequency networks for connecting instrumentation nodes; B2) development of rumen sensors; B3) development of instrumentation to determine the position and activity; B4) analysis, design and implementation of a power recovery to replace the battery of ruminal boluses.
Contact person: Ahmed Salama (

Structural characterization of production systems and study of production costs in livestock farms. Establishment of typologies to represent the characteristics of the different types of farms and systems in use.

Jordi Bartolomé Filella
Sergio Calsamiglia Blancafort
Josep Gasa Gasó

María José Milán Sendra
Josepa Plaixats Boixadera


Competitiveness of the dairy sector: From data to decisions
The dairy cattle sector is facing difficulties due to the reduction in milk prices and the increase in the cost of feeding. The need to improve the competitiveness of dairy enterprise requires decisions that are often difficult to evaluate because they are highly dependent on many economical and technical factors and their interactions. The objective of this project is to integrate animal knowledge, on-farm available data from milking machines, management software and sensors together with artificial intelligence techniques to develop an application to produce additional knowledge (scientific objective) and recommend actions at farm level (applied objective). The project is structured in four main tasks: 1) Automated data collection from the different platforms and its consolidation in a unique database; 2) Applicacion of artificial intelligence techniques to develop a knowledge-based system to interpret farm data. We propose the use of different methodologies as neural networks, machine learning, data mining y knowledge discovery. The system will provide recommendations for actions that will be evaluated based on uncertainty, risk and economic return; 3) Validation of the system in field conditions through the implementation of the knowledge system in three farms; and 4) Development of a software application in a web-environment to allow easy access and use for professionals.
Contact person: Sergio Calsamiglia (

Precision livestock can offer a continuous real-time monitoring of the animal, with the aim of being able to act immediately when something goes wrong or to analyze the evolution of the data to make future decisions. The automation and the integration of technology into livestock farming will allow intensification to be made compatible with sustainable and respectful environmental growth with animal and human welfare. However, it would be interesting to deepen the implementation, adaptation and validation of the existing technology in livestock to be economically profitable, as well as in the recovery of existing data and in its treatment through computational tools that allow decision-making.

Gerardo Caja López
Lorena Castillejos Velázquez


Intelligent and profitable technification of Catalan farms to improve the efficiency and well-being of animals andfarmers. (SMARTFARM, COMRDI16-1-0032)
The growing globalization of markets worldwide, both in terms of raw materials and products of animal origin (meat, eggs, milk), requires companies to permanently improve their competitiveness, while society demands the consideration and integration of other factors in the productive system such as: more efficient and sustainable production, reduction of environmental impact, improvement of food safety and quality, and improvement of animal welfare.
The Catalan livestock sector has identified different objectives that would contribute decisively to increase its competitiveness and sustainability. One of these objectives is to improve the technification of livestock farms through techniques known as ‘smart farming’. These techniques include, among other actions, the collection, processing and analysis of data in livestock farms. With the help of KETs (Key enabling technologies) the SMARTFARM project wants to achieve:
  1. An accurate control of animal feeding with the aim of reducing the total cost of production
  2. An efficient control of environmental contaminants that allows to know and reduce their impact on the environment
  3. An increase of the homogeneity of the animals of each lot, with the objective of reducing the economic losses
  4. Early identification of animal diseases, allowing to increase the productive performance and welfare of livestock
  5. An integrated management of the data generated in a farm to improve decision making
SMARTFARM project represents a simultaneous improvement of four key aspects for the livestock sector:
  • The improvement of the alimentary efficiency and therefore a decrease of costs
  • The significant reduction of the environmental impact of the current production systems
  • The increase in food security and animal welfare
  • The improvement of the profitability of the farms through the integration of the available information
Contact person: Lorena Castillejos (