3Rs Information - Large mammal

Farm animal cognition - linking behaviour, welfare and ethics

A review has highlighted the importance of farm animal welfare and the necessity to understand not only their behavioural needs and capacities but also their cognitive ones. We recommend this review for researchers working with farm animals, as well as ethics committees, AWBs and information officers.

Refining blood sampling in pigs

The mammary vein technique is a significant refinement for the collection of blood from lactating sows. This technique, described in The Veterinary Journal in December 2019, can be performed by a single individual, does not require restraint, and animals vocalised less when the mammary route was used rather than the jugular vein.


Facial expressions in piglets undergoing tail docking and castration

An article has been published in Frontiers of Veterinary Science looking at facial expressions in piglets undergoing tail docking and castration. This article evaluated the utility of a Grimace Scale applied to neonatal pigs to evaluate pain. While more research is needed to assess its full effectiveness, and the influence of possible confounds, the article reported that orbital tightening may have the potential to be applied to investigate painful conditions in neonatal pigs.


Diagnosis of pain levels in sheep

Researchers in the University of Cambridge have developed an artificial intelligence (AI) system to detect pain levels in sheep. This system uses five different facial expressions and is currently able to estimate pain levels with 80% accuracy.


Equine pain scoring

A paper has been published in The Veterinary Journal which validates a facial assessment pain scale in horses with acute or postoperative pain originating from the head:



Use of agricultural animals for research

The Federation of Animal Science Societies have published this comprehensive Guide for the Care and Use of Agricultural Animals in Research and Teaching. It should be a helpful guidance document for those using agricultural animals and it covers cattle, horses, poultry, sheep, goats and pigs.

Research with agricultural animals and wildlife

A paper on the use of livestock and wild ungulates has been published in ILAR Journal, which gives guidance on housing and husbandry, restraint and handling, record keeping etc., and highlights the importance of applying the 3Rs principles in these types of studies.

FELASA recommendations on health management of ruminants and pigs

The FELASA Working Group on Farm Animals has published recommendations of best practices for the health management of ruminants and pigs used for scientific and educational purposes. These recommendations provide general and specific information and advice for designing a health management programme for suppliers and user establishments, as well as guidance on animal procurement.

Group housing whilst assessing individual feed intake

Individual housing of sheep to facilitate the measurement of feed intake comes with a welfare cost for this sociable species. This article published in Translational Animal Science describes the validation of an automated feeding system for measuring feed intake of individual sheep when housed in groups.


Through this website you are able to link to other websites which are not under the control of the HPRA. We have no control over the nature, content and availability of those sites. The inclusion of any links does not necessarily imply that the HPRA recommends or endorses the views expressed within these linked websites.