Farm animals play an important part in animal research. They are used both to increase our understanding of their species (or related ones), and as models of human conditions. Much of the knowledge we have gained by using them as production animals can be put to good use when planning research, but there are a number of other important factors that also need to be considered. Studies on farm animals can be some of the most demanding experiments to perform, and it is vital that scientists and the animal facility liaise closely together from day one of planning. We strongly recommend the PREPARE checklist and its associated webpages with more detailed recommendations. Some, but by no means all, of the challenges include:

  • health status, acquisition, transport and acclimation to new buildings
  • quarantine and adaptation to new feeding regimes
  • establishment of new social groups
  • provision of sufficient space for exercise, sampling, anaesthesia and necropsy
  • ventilation issues
  • the differences in practices between traditional farm work and those used in controlled studies in a laboratory environment
  • health, safety and general hygiene
  • waste disposal (e.g. contaminated carcases)
  • containment of pathogens
  • identification of sufficient numbers of staff who are familiar with, and competent to handle, farm animal species

Many of these issues are exacerbated by the sheer size of the animals.

General guidance

There are valuable resources in the databases embedded in the Norecopa website:

  • 3R Guide (guidelines)
  • TextBase (literature)
  • NORINA (products to replace/supplement animal use in education and training)

Norecopa organised an international consensus meeting on the care and use of agricultural animals in research on 26-28 September 2012 at Gardermoen. The meeting addressed both the use of farm animals in traditional laboratory animal facilities and animal research performed under farm conditions. The presentations, overviews of guidelines for farm animal research and a consensus document from the participants are available for downloading.

The welfare standards issued by the RSPCA for many species will also be helpful.

Guidelines for farm animal research in the 3R Guide database

Some of the more general guidelines for animal research which Norecopa has collected will also be of direct or indirect relevance to studies on farm animals. This also applies to Norecopa's webpages on experimental design, and to a certain extent the webpages about the use of fishlaboratory animals and wildlife.

Schmidt et al. (2021): Large Farm Animals Used for Research Purposes: A Survey on Purchase, Housing and Hygiene Management 

FELASA recommendations of best practices for the health management of ruminants and pigs used for scientific and educational purposes (Supplementary material)

Pig Housing & Handling: a collection of evidence-based refinements from the NA3RsC

van de Weerd & Ison (2019): Providing Effective Environmental Enrichment to Pigs: How Far Have We Come?

Pigs and biomedical research: an overview from EARA

Resources on blood sampling of hens and pigs are available here.

There is a page with resources of special interest for those working with minipigs.

Bukhari et al. (2024): The behavior and welfare of neglected species: some examples from fish and mammals (buffalo, camel, donkey, mule)

Mutilating Procedures, Management Practices, and Housing Conditions That May Affect the Welfare of Farm Animals: Implications for Welfare Research (Animals, 2017)

A review of factors affecting analgesic selection in large animals undergoing translational research

A collection of training modules (CCAC website)

Mählis et al. (2023): Clicker Training as an Applied Refinement Measure in Chickens

The REFLECT Statement for reporting livestock trials with production, health and food safety outcomes.

Nawroth et al. (2019): Farm Animal Cognition - Linking Behavior, Welfare and Ethics Front. Vet. Sci. 6:24. doi: 10.3389/fvets.2019.00024

Cox RJ et al. (2019): Research with Agricultural Animals and Wildlife. ILAR Journal.

National Avian Research Facility (NARF), Roslin Institute, UK

Laboratory birds: refinements in husbandry and procedures

Comparison of Large Animal Models for Acute Ischemic Stroke: Which Model to Use? (Taha et al., 2022)

This page was updated on 13 June 2024

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