Long-term consistency of selected animal-related welfare parameters in dairy farms
Abstract:It was the purpose of this study to assess the consistency of selected animal-based welfare parameters for dairy cattle throughout a one-year period. Eight cubicle-housed dairy herds were visited five times, at two-monthly intervals. At each visit, lameness, injuries to the carpal and tarsal joints, cleanliness, social behaviour and the avoidance distance towards an unknown person were assessed by the same observer in a random sample.
At herd level, lesions of the carpal joints, udder cleanliness and frequencies of agonistic and cohesive behaviour showed low consistency. However, correlations between consecutive recordings as well as between single visits and the average were moderate to satisfactory for lameness prevalence, lesions of the tarsal joints, cleanliness of the hind leg and avoidance distances towards an unknown person in two different locations. The integration of these parameters into on-farm welfare assessment protocols seems to be justified.