This study aimed to assess the welfare of Tunisian sheep in extensive sheep production systems using animal-based measures of ewe welfare. This study encompasses the first national survey of sheep welfare in which animal-based outcomes were tested. Animal-based welfare measures were derived from previous welfare protocols. Fifty-two Tunisian farms were studied and a number from 20 to 100 animals by flock were examinated. The whole flock was also observed to detect clinical diseases, lameness, and coughing. The human-animal relationship was selected as welfare indicators. It was evaluated through the avoidance distance test. The average avoidance distance was 10.47 ± 1.23 and 8.12 ± 0.97 m for a novel person and farmer, respectively. The global mean of body condition score (BCS) was 2.4 with 47% of ewes having a BCS of two, which may be associated with an increased risk of nutritional stress, disease, and low productivity. Ten farms had more than 7% of lambs with a low body condition score, which may be an indication of a welfare problem. The results obtained in the present study suggest that the used animal-based measures were the most reliable indicators that can be included in welfare protocols for extensive sheep production systems.
Keywords: animal-based measures; indicators; sheep welfare; stress.