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How Can You Tell if a Dairy Cow is Happy?

31 May 2016

AUSTRALIA - According to Dr Xavier Manteca, University of Autonoma de Barcelona, who will be speaking at the Australian Veterinary Association’s (AVA) Annual Conference, dairy cattle welfare can be assessed using a range of methods.

“It’s important to routinely check for important welfare problems under the principle of good health. Some conditions go unnoticed and under-reported by producers which can lead to poor welfare outcomes,” Dr Manteca said.

Dr Manteca will discuss the Welfare Quality® protocol used in Europe to assess the welfare of dairy cows, which was developed after consultation with more than 40 scientific institutions and 15 countries.

“Unlike other protocols, which mainly use environment-based parameters, the Welfare Quality® protocols include mainly animal-based measures and include four key principles of good welfare – good feeding, good housing, good health and appropriate behaviour,” he said.

Dr Mantecca said there are a number of key health and welfare issues that can be assessed on dairy farms:

  • Adequate access to water. There should be at least one water bowl for 10 cows or 6-10 cm of water trough per cow.
  • Comfort at resting. Cows should be able to lie down for a prolonged period of time every day (approximately 11-13 hours per day).
  • Cow cleanliness. This is assessed by examining the udder, lower hind legs and hind quarters.
  • Painful conditions such as lameness and mastitis. Both of these conditions can lead to severe economic losses. Producers should look out for signs such as head bobbing, arching of the spine and changes in stride length.
  • Appropriate behaviour. The quality of stockmanship has an important effect on animal welfare and performance and determines whether cattle are fearful of people. Fear can affect milk production and has a negative impact on welfare. The quality of the human-animal relationship can be measured through the “flight-distance” test. This measures the distance between the hand of the person and the cow muzzle when the cow first withdraws.

The AVA annual conference is being held 22-27 May at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

TheCattleSite News Desk


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