This dossier aims to support Competent Authorities and other stakeholders with welfare improvements for ruminants and equines through environmental enrichment, and is not legally binding. The dossier is updated periodically by the EURCAW Ruminants & Equine team.




Council directive 98/58/EC states general rules for the protection of animals kept for farming purposes. Council directive 2008/119/EC sets minimum standards for the protection of calves. There is no reference to the provision of enrichments except that calves must have visual and tactile contacts with neighbours when they are in individual crates (under 8 weeks of age).

Council Directive 2010/63/EU for the protection of animals used for scientific purposes mentions enrichment, in reference to the expression of behaviour and the reduction of negative emotions (stress).

Council Directive 98/58/EC of 20 July 1998 concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes

This Directive lays down minimum standards for the protection of animals bred or kept for farming purposes.

© INRAE / NICOLAS Bertrand

© INRAE / NICOLAS Bertrand


Enriching the living environment of captive animals provides stimulation and allows animals to perform natural behaviours that may be prevented in their captive environment. Enrichments are commonly divided into physical, occupational, sensorial, nutritional and relational enrichments. They promote positive emotions and improve animal’s welfare. Environmental enrichment is species-specific, depends on the developmental stage of the individuals, and can lead to frustration or stress if not adapted. Understanding the needs of animals and how they perceive their environment is therefore essential.

Environmental enrichment in ruminants and equids: Introduction

This review presents the current knowledge on the concept of environmental enrichment and its different types. The general needs of animals and the current situation of European farming systems are summarised, and a procedure for designing and verifying the efficiency of new enrichments is presented.

© INRAE / NICOLAS Bertrand

© INRAE / NICOLAS Bertrand

Tools for Inspection

Various enrichments are possible. Common principles for the design and the evaluation of enrichments are provided. Then three factsheets cover the enrichments for cattle, small ruminants, and equines. The issue of contacts between neighbouring calves is addressed in a dedicated dossier.

Environmental enrichment for cattle

In natural habitats, animals receive many stimuli that vary in place and time. In such habitats, they can express a wide range of behaviours that define the species’ behavioural repertoire. Farming or captive environments are designed to meet biological basic needs (e.g. for rest, feeding), but are far less complex than “natural” habitats. When performed, some behaviours may procure positive emotions (e.g. play in young, control of the environment). In poor environments, animals are not able to express some of the behaviours from their repertoire and lack stimulation. As a consequence, they may be frustrated, lack positive emotions, or experience boredom.

The concept of environmental enrichment refers to a wide range of modifications to the environment of captive or farmed animals that offer adequate stimulation and facilitate the expression of highly motivated behaviour thus promoting positive emotions and improving the animal’s welfare.

This thematic factsheet summarises the knowledge on cattle needs, the present situation of farming systems in Europe and potential environmental enrichments (physical, occupational, sensory, feeding and relational) that can be implemented in farms to improve animal welfare.

© VEISSIER Isabelle

© VEISSIER Isabelle