Impact of Daily Grazing Time on Dairy Cow Welfare—Results of the Welfare Quality® Protocol
Simple SummaryIt 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.
AbstractGrazing 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
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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.
Wagner K, Brinkmann J, March S, Hinterstoißer P, Warnecke S, Schüler M, Paulsen HM. Impact of Daily Grazing Time on Dairy Cow Welfare—Results of the Welfare Quality® Protocol. Animals. 2018; 8(1):1.Chicago/Turabian Style
Wagner, Kathrin; Brinkmann, Jan; March, Solveig; Hinterstoißer, Peter; Warnecke, Sylvia; Schüler, Maximilian; Paulsen, Hans M. 2018. "Impact of Daily Grazing Time on Dairy Cow Welfare—Results of the Welfare Quality® Protocol." Animals 8, no. 1: 1.
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