Harness pressure mapping and the development of technology for animal traction: a contribution for the welfare and performance of working donkeys

When conducted: 
1 October 2018 - 30 September 2019
Escola Superior Agrária de Bragança (ESA-IPB)
Core methodology: 
Different harness systems will be tested, controlling variables that can influence the results, such as draft work when performing different tasks, load displaced, balance of the load, etc. The force and pressure distribution beneath the working harness will be assessed, through the use of the CONFORMat (or similar) pressure mapping tool (Tekscan®). Pressure mapping tools have been used to investigate the relationship between contact surfaces in terms of pressure distribution and magnitude. In this study, the CONFORMat will be used to measure and illustrate visually the pressure effects at the contact interfaces between the components of the harness and the working donkeys’ body surface. Data will be collected from firstly static donkeys and then donkeys in motion.
This research will allow the development of easily transportable kit that allows to evaluate in situ any harness system used in donkeys worldwide, assessing its effectiveness and welfare of the animals, allowing to promote changes based on evidence based scientific knowledge.
To test existing models and/or contribute to the development of better and more adapted harness system for working donkeys, by assessing the force and pressure distribution beneath the working harness, while monitoring the general health and welfare of the animals.

The prevalence of lameness and associated risk factors in cart mules in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia


Alina Ali, Solomon Orion, Tewodros Tesfaye, Jennifer A. Zambriski. September 2016. The prevalence of lameness and associated risk factors in cart mules in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Tropical Animal Health and Production.

Publication details
Publication date: 
1 September 2016
DOI number: 

Ethiopia has 7.1 million donkeys and mules, the majority of which are used as pack animals. Factors such as poor harness quality, long-distance traveling, and heavy cartloads have been linked to reduced work efficiency. Addressing the health and welfare of working equids is imperative not only for the animals but also for the households dependent upon them for livelihood. In developing countries, 75 % of working equids have gait or limb abnormalities, but the relationship between workload and prevalence of lameness is unknown. We examined 450 cart mules in Bahir Dar,
Ethiopia. Lameness and workload were assessed through use of a survey and lameness exam. We found that 26.8 % of cart mules were lame, and acute lameness of the forelimb was the most common. Animals with poor harness quality were 2.5 times more likely to have sores and 1.6 times more likely to be lame. Lameness tended to be associated with cartloads >700 kg (P = 0.09), and there was a significant association
between multiple-leg lameness and cartload weight (P = 0.03). The presence of sores was the best predictor of lameness (P = 0.001). Possible areas of intervention may include education to reduce average daily workload and improving harness design.

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