Het welzijn is beter aan het begin van de stalperiode

Onderzoeksoutput: Bijdrage aan congresGepubliceerd abstractpeer review


In the EU-project Welfare Quality® (WQ) protocols were developed and proposed as international standards for the assessment of farm animals. The dairy cattle protocol comprises 32 welfare indicators. Contrary to earlier methods in which welfare status was derived from a description of the housing and management conditions, WQ® gives preference to welfare indicators that are measured on the animals (as these are believed to be related more directly to their welfare). These scores can subsequently be integrated into aggregate-scores for 11 welfare criteria, which in turn can be integrated into aggregate-scores for 4 welfare principles. On the basis of these principle scores the overall welfare status of the farm can be categorized as ‘not-classified’, ‘acceptable’, ‘enhanced’ or ‘excellent’.
The dairy cattle protocol ought to be carried out during the indoor period because it is impossible to do some measures while the animals are on pasture. There are no other restrictions with regards to the timing of the farm visits. As these assessments are relatively time-consuming, it is poorly feasible to visit each farm repeatedly. For large-scale monitoring purposes it is presumed, therefore, that a single assessment is valid for an extended period of time (insofar that the circumstances have not been changed considerably).
This assumption, however, has barely been tested. For cattle that are kept indoor during winter and are given access to pasture during summer, it may be questioned whether a welfare assessment at the beginning of the indoor period is comparable with one at the end. There are indications that access to pasture can have positive (eg. leg health, mastitis) and negative (eg. heat stress) effects on various welfare indicators. We expect these effects to have a stronger influence at the beginning than at the end of the indoor period.
In order to test this possibility, we carried out the WQ® protocol on 10 commercial farms in Belgium both at the beginning (November 2010) and end (February – March 2011) of the indoor period. On all farms cattle were kept in cubicle houses and were given access to pasture in summer. Each farm was assessed independently by 2 trained observers. The paired T-test was used for testing differences in welfare scores (averaged for the two observers) from the beginning versus end of the indoor period.
Three of the 11 welfare criteria were not considered because they are based on resource-based indicators which could not have been influenced by the time of visit (i.e. ‘ease of movement’, ‘pain induced by management procedures’, and ‘expression of other behaviours’). The mean scores for the remaining criteria were higher at the beginning versus end of the indoor period, except for ‘human-animal relationship’ (for which the difference was small). These differences were statistically significant for ‘absence of disease’ and ‘positive emotional state’ (P<0.05). The aggregate score for 1 (‘good health’) of the 4 welfare principles was also significantly higher at the beginning versus end of the indoor period (P<0.05). Not a single farm received either the lowest (‘not classified’) or highest (‘excellent’) overall welfare category. All farms were categorized as ‘acceptable’ or ‘enhanced’. Eighty percent of farms were categorized as ‘enhanced’ at the beginning of the indoor period. This dropped to 60% at the end of the indoor period.
To conclude, when assessing the welfare of dairy cattle between and within farms it ought to be taken into account that some aspects of cattle welfare (health, behaviour) are better at the beginning than the end of the indoor period. The results also suggest a positive influence of access to pasture on dairy cattle welfare.
Vertaalde titel van de bijdrageHet welzijn is beter aan het begin van de stalperiode
Oorspronkelijke taalEngels
Aantal pagina’s1
PublicatiestatusGepubliceerd - 5-jul-2012
EvenementMinding Animals - Utrecht, Nederland
Duur: 4-jul-20126-jul-2012


CongresMinding Animals

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