Next Article in Journal
Animal-Based Measures to Assess the Welfare of Extensively Managed Ewes
Next Article in Special Issue
Private Animal Welfare Standards—Opportunities and Risks
Previous Article in Journal
An Exploration of Industry Expert Perception of Equine Welfare Using Vignettes
Previous Article in Special Issue
Marketing Animal-Friendly Products: Addressing the Consumer Social Dilemma with Reinforcement Positioning Strategies
Article Menu
Issue 1 (January) cover image

Export Article

Open AccessArticle
Animals 2018, 8(1), 1; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8010001

Impact of Daily Grazing Time on Dairy Cow Welfare—Results of the Welfare Quality® Protocol

Thünen Institute of Organic Farming, Trenthorst, 23847 Westerau, Germany
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 14 October 2017 / Revised: 5 December 2017 / Accepted: 18 December 2017 / Published: 22 December 2017
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [205 KB, uploaded 22 December 2017]

Simple Summary

It is often presumed that grazing dairy cows experience better welfare than those that are housed all year round. But is this really the case? In this study, we wanted to find out whether the daily amount of time cows spent on pasture affected their welfare. We used the Welfare Quality® assessment protocol for dairy cattle to measure cow welfare on 32 farms (organic and conventional) once in winter (=housing period) and once in summer (=grazing period, if provided). Farms were grouped according to daily grazing time (‘minor/zero’, ‘medium’, and ‘high’). In farms with grazing, overall welfare improved from winter to summer, whereas the situation in minor/zero grazing farms remained largely unchanged. While we found no overall effect of the amount of daily grazing time on cow welfare, the individual measures “% of cows with hairless patches” and “% of lame cows” received better scores in the high grazing farms. However, other measures e.g., related to water provision, scored worse in the grazing farms in summer as opposed to winter. We conclude that grazing offers a high potential to enhance dairy cow welfare during summer. However, beneficial effects are not guaranteed when the overall management does not satisfy the cows´ needs.

Abstract

Grazing provides livestock better opportunities to act out their species-specific behavior compared to restrictive stable conditions. The aim of the present study was to examine the effects of daily grazing time on welfare of dairy cows in organic and conventional farms based on the Welfare Quality® assessment protocol for dairy cattle (WQ®). Therefore, we applied the WQ® on 32 dairy farms (classified in 3 groups: Group 0, minor/zero grazing, n = 14; Group 1, medium grazing, n = 10; Group 2, high grazing, n = 8). We assessed the status of animal welfare once in winter and once in summer. For statistical analyses we used mixed models for repeated measures, with group, season, and their interaction as fixed factors. At the WQ® criteria level, five out of nine examined criteria improved in farms with grazing between winter and summer. In contrast, the welfare situation in minor/zero grazing farms remained largely unchanged. At the level of WQ® measures, only the individual parameters “% of cows with hairless patches” and “% of lame cows” were affected positively by high grazing. Grazing offers a potential to enhance welfare of dairy cows during the summer season, while beneficial effects are not guaranteed when management does not satisfy the animals´ needs. View Full-Text
Keywords: dairy cows; animal welfare; grazing; pasture; Welfare Quality® dairy cows; animal welfare; grazing; pasture; Welfare Quality®
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

Share & Cite This Article

MDPI and ACS Style

Wagner, K.; Brinkmann, J.; March, S.; Hinterstoißer, P.; Warnecke, S.; Schüler, M.; Paulsen, H.M. Impact of Daily Grazing Time on Dairy Cow Welfare—Results of the Welfare Quality® Protocol. Animals 2018, 8, 1.

Show more citation formats Show less citations formats

Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Related Articles

Article Metrics

Article Access Statistics

1

Comments

[Return to top]
Animals EISSN 2076-2615 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
Back to Top