Animal health and welfare planning improves udder health and cleanliness but not leg health in Austrian dairy herds
Animal health and welfare planning is considered an important tool for herd management; however, its effectiveness is less well known. The aim of this study was to conduct animal health and welfare planning on 34 Austrian dairy farms and to evaluate changes in health and welfare after 1 yr. After an initial assessment using the Welfare Quality protocol (Welfare Quality Consortium, Lelystad, the Netherlands), results were reported back to the farmers. Health and welfare area(s) in which both the farmer and the researcher regarded improvement as important were discussed. Management practices and husbandry measures were chosen according to the respective farm situation. One year after interventions had been initiated, farms were reassessed, and the degree of implementation of improvement measures was recorded. The average implementation rate was 57% and thus relatively high when compared with other studies. High degrees of implementation were achieved related to cleanliness and udder health, at 77 and 63%, respectively. Intervention measures addressing udder health were mostly easy to incorporate in the daily routine and led to a reduced somatic cell score, whereas this score increased in herds without implementation of measures. The decrease in cows with dirty teats was more pronounced when measures were implemented compared with control farms. The implementation rate regarding leg health (46%) was comparably low in the present study, and leg health did not improve even when measures were implemented. Lying comfort, social behavior, and human–animal relationship did not require interventions and were therefore seldom chosen by farmers as part of health and welfare plans. In conclusion, the structured, participatory process of animal health and welfare planning appears to be a promising way to improve at least some animal health and welfare issues.
- animal health and welfare planning;
- dairy cow;
- Welfare Quality
Copyright © 2015 American Dairy Science Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.