Welfare Assessment of Dairy Cows at Farm Level

Silvana POPESCU, Cristina EL MAHDY, Eva DIUGAN, Cristin BORDA, Carmen Dana SANDRU


The welfare assessment of dairy cows based on animal-linked parameters is a relatively new feature in Romania. The aim of this study was to assess the welfare of dairy cows kept in free housing and in tie-stalls, by comparing the degree in which the needs of these animals are fulfilled in both rearing systems. During the study a total number of 285 dairy cows were assessed in 10 farms, using the Welfare Quality® assessment protocol, based mostly on animal-linked parameters. According to this protocol, the scores awarded for the parameters were computed in scores for 12 welfare criteria, then in scores for four welfare principles and finally each farm was assigned to one of the possible welfare categories. The statistical descriptors calculated allow the comparison between the results obtained in the farms with different housing systems. At the criteria level 31.66% of the scores were 'unacceptable' (63.15% of which in the tie-stall farms) and only 13.33% and 10% were 'enhanced' and 'excellent', respectively. At the welfare principle level, 62.5% of the 'unacceptable' scores were awarded to tie-stall farms and the only 'excellent' score was obtained by a free-stall farm. In the final classification, eight of the 10 farms were found 'unacceptable'. The welfare of the cows was 'acceptable' in one tie-stall farm and 'enhanced' in a single free-stall farm, respectively. Apart from the identification of the welfare problems in the assessed farms, the protocol shows the domains where improving of animal welfare is easy to achieve by cost effective interventions.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15835/buasvmcn-vm:1:68:6780

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