Relationships between building design, management system and dairy cow welfare
As part of a larger on-farm dairy cow welfare and behaviour project, data were collected from 22 commercial dairy farms over two winters (2000–2001 and 2001–2002). A further winter of farm sampling will complete the project (2002–2003), with five types of housing and production systems being assessed: high-, medium- and low-milk-production herds with cubicle housing, high-production herds with zero grazing and cubicle housing, and medium-production herds with straw courts. All cows in one early or mid-lactation group from each farm were observed. For the current analysis, locomotion, cleanliness and body condition were scored for the group, and an audit of building quality was carried out. Analysis of the available data shows that some aspects of building design affect the welfare of dairy cows. A positive correlation was found between mean body condition score of the cows and mean locomotion score (P = 0.047). Body condition score correlated negatively with the number of cows in the group (P = 0.049). Negative correlations were found between locomotion score and the ratio of cubicles to cows (P = 0.033) and between the size of cubicles and leg cleanliness (P = 0.012). Trends were also seen in the relationships between farm type and locomotion score (P = 0.048), production level and locomotion score (P = 0.074) and cow cleanliness and cubicle size (P = 0.061). These results indicate that the quality of the housing and the management system can affect cow welfare. These measures may be useful to include in on-farm welfare assessment schemes.
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