Animals (Sep 2022)

Practicability of a Time-Limited Welfare Assessment Protocol for Pasture-Based Dairy Farms, and a Preliminary Assessment of Welfare Outcome Thresholds

  • Sujan Sapkota,
  • Richard Laven,
  • Kristina Ruth Müller,
  • Nikki Kells

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12, no. 18
p. 2481


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This study assessed a new time-limited protocol developed for pasture-based cows across 23 dairy farms. The process started prior to milking with a questionnaire, followed by an assessment of resources (16 farms only) and behavioural observation of cows at pasture. Remaining animal-based measures were assessed during milking, usually by two assessors (one parlour based and one outside). The protocol proved to be practical and feasible with limited changes needed, except for the assessment of water availability and behaviour. As most cows could access only one water trough, distance between troughs was not a measure of water availability, while the observation of a large numbers of cows at pasture for 30 min resulted in few observations and an uncertain denominator (effective number of observed cows). Further research is needed to determine the best way of assessing water availability and cow behaviour in a time-limited assessment of pasture-based cows. Three animal-based measures (broken tails, dirtiness, and coughing) had mean values higher than the author-determined acceptable thresholds, while <50% of farms met trough cleanliness and track condition targets, and none met the criteria for shelter and shade. This was a sample of farms based on convenience, so more data are required to establish the representativeness of these results. Such testing should involve assessment of the repeatability and reliability of the measures in our protocol.