Animal Welfare Assessment: Can We Develop a Practical, Time-Limited Assessment Protocol for Pasture-Based Dairy Cows in New Zealand?
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Collection and Screening of Potential Assessments
2.2. Feasibility Testing
2.3. Finalisation Phase
Conflicts of Interest
|Welfare Domain ||Measuring Standards Taken from Different Protocols Studies and Welfare Code||Status after Screening|
|Nutrition||Body condition score||Accepted|
|Rumen fill score||Accepted|
|Cleanliness of water points/troughs.||Accepted|
|Average distance to water points from the pasture||Accepted|
|Additional feeding sites in the pasture||Limited practical application|
|Contamination of the feeding site||Limited practical application|
|Feeding places per cow||Limited practical application|
|Distance from the pasture to the feeding site||Not relevant at pasture|
|Choice of water temperature||Not relevant at pasture|
|Proper flow and functioning of the water points||Time consuming as part of assessment|
|Sufficient amount and size of drinking troughs||Time consuming as part of assessment|
|Noise level (e.g., dogs/machineries)||Accepted|
|Cleanliness of udder, lower hind legs (including the hock), hind quarters-upper hind leg, flank and rear-view including tail||Accepted|
|Track condition: surface, width, slope||Accepted|
|Shelter: Provision of shade, wind breaks and natural barriers during extreme weather.||Accepted|
|Heat stress indicators (seeking shade, open mouth panting).||Accepted|
|Cold stress indicators (shivering, huddling, facing away from wind or rain).||Accepted|
|Slope before the entry and exit of the parlour||Accepted|
|Maximum time waiting before entering the milking parlour||Accepted|
|Slope of pasture||Limited practical application|
|Milking hours aligned to climate||Limited practical application|
|Access to the pasture (days per year, average time spent on pasture per day).||Limited practical application|
|Time taken to lie down||Not relevant at pasture|
|Animals colliding with housing equipment while lying down||Not relevant at pasture|
|Animals lying partly or completely outside the lying area||Not relevant at pasture|
|Comfortable calving pen, separate pens for calves||Not relevant at pasture|
|Walking of the cows related to the placement of the shafts||Not relevant at pasture|
|Light and air quality of the lying area||Not relevant at pasture|
|Position of animals in the cubicles (diagonal and lying, backward-forward standing, diagonal and standing, backward-forward and standing).||Not relevant at pasture|
|Comfortable, safe and clean flooring.||Not relevant at pasture|
|Run (after release from restraint.)||Not relevant at pasture|
|Stumble, fall||Not relevant at pasture|
|Building allowing mounting||Not relevant at pasture|
|Access to outdoor loafing area||Not relevant at the pasture|
|Abrasions, injuries, integument alteration (hairless patches, lesions/swellings)||Accepted|
|Claw conformation||Limited practical application|
|Skin irritation||Limited practical application|
|Signs of Facial eczema||Limited practical application|
|Thick hocks||Not relevant at pasture|
|Thick carpi||Not relevant at pasture|
|Animals needing further care||Not relevant at pasture|
|Lying down and standing difficulty||Not relevant at pasture|
|Abnormal sitting position (dog sitting)||Not relevant at pasture|
|Abomasal dislocations||Not relevant at pasture|
|Bloated rumen||Not relevant at pasture|
|Behaviour||Social agonistic behaviour (headbutting, displacement, chasing, chasing up, fighting, pushing)||Accepted|
|Fear behaviour towards human approach/Avoidance distance||Accepted|
|Milking behaviour (cow restlessness during milking; number kicking and stepping over a complete milking time)||Accepted|
|Orientation in the collecting yard (facing towards the parlour, facing directly away from the parlour, not orientated towards the parlour,)||Accepted|
|Qualitative behaviour (Active, Frustrated, Irritable, Relaxed, Friendly, Uneasy, Fearful, Bored, Sociable, Agitated, Playful, Apathetic, Calm, positively occupied, Happy, Content, Lively, Distressed, Indifferent, Inquisitive)||Accepted|
|Animal handling during milking (vocal tone, hitting, tail pulling, etc.)||Accepted|
|Leg stretching while standing in the pasture||Limited practical application|
|Tail hanging straight and relaxed in pasture||Limited practical application|
|Avoidance distance at the feeding rack||Limited practical application|
|Stockperson to animal ratio||Limited practical application|
- What is the distance to the farthest paddock? ………………………….
- Do you mix the cows between the herds? Yes…….. No…….
- Do you use pain relief during routinely husbandry procedures? Yes…… No…….
- How do you manage your vaccination record?
- What do you use for cattle handling (e.g., prod, sticks, miscatch, tail twist, etc)?
- Is your stockperson trained in animal handling, professionalism and knowledge of signs and symptoms of diseases?
- How often do you cull your cows (planned/unplanned culls per year, enforced culls, e.g., TB (Tuberculosis))?
- Number of mastitis/year
- Number of lameness/year
- Total mortality per year
- Milk somatic cell count
- Downer cow
- Milk fever
- Mortality at birth
- Retention of placenta
Appendix C.1. Nutrition
Appendix C.2. Environment
Appendix C.3. Health
Appendix C.4. Behaviour
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|Rejected Assessment||Reason for Rejection||Rationale|
|Difficult to observe||During milking (in both types of parlour) the assessor is behind the cows and cannot easily observe the nostrils or the eyes. Outside the parlour, observer needs to be distant from the cows (to avoid interfering with movement), so assessment of mild-moderate discharge was difficult.|
|Difficult to identify pathological diarrhoea||Lactating dairy cattle in New Zealand are fed a low dry matter, highly digestible diet , thus loose faecal consistency is normal.|
|Occurrence depends on environmental conditions||Observing such symptoms on a one-off visit is unpredictable. Resource-based assessments, such as assessment shelter, will provide an estimate of the resources available to the cows should there be heat or cold stress.|
|Limited resources||Difficult to assess without specialised equipment. Limited impact where track quality is maintained.|
|Difficult to observe alongside other measurements||On an elevated platform in a rotary parlour, only a few cows are observable at any one time. In a herringbone parlour, it was difficult to assess alongside other assessments requiring scoring of individual cows.|
|Not suitable for all NZ farms||Suitable for rectangular yards only.|
|Difficult to assess during milking and insufficient time available during paddock visit||Assessment of qualitative behaviours is difficult and time consuming. In paddock Assessment was limited to agonistic and positive behaviours, which were thought to be more important .|
|Record quality generally poor—farmer recollection rather than records||Only clinical mastitis and lameness cases were retained. For data collected by outside bodies (e.g., bulk milk somatic cell count), it was thought best to collect from those sources rather than from the farmer.|
|Assessment||Changes Made||Reason for Modification|
|Scoring system (animal-based assessments)||Only welfare-compromised animals (e.g., score ≥2 for locomotion score, ≤2 for rumen fill and ≤3 for body condition score) recorded.||Categorisation made these assessments simpler and quicker.|
|Cleanliness of the cow||Three-category AHDB cleanliness scoring system  used rather than four-category Wisconsin Hygiene Scoring system . Dirtiness on lower leg (below hock joint) and only dried dirt was recorded (fresh dirt was not included in score ). Udder, flank and upper leg scored separately. Proportion of cows with at least one score ≥ 1 recorded.||AHDB scoring system and categorisation made assessment simpler and quicker.|
|Fear behaviour||Response of the cows towards the assessor, i.e., fearful, neutral and approach, was observed at the entrance to the parlour. Approximately 2% of cows were assessed.||Interpretation of aversion distance is uncertain in extensive systems ; in addition, measurement was not possible in the paddock alongside behavioural observation due to time restrictions.|
|Body condition score (BCS)/Skin injury||Change of site in herringbone parlour from inside to on immediate exit.|
No change for rotary, as all cows were assessable.
|For BCS, only 50% of cows (left row) were assessable in the herringbone parlour. For skin injury, assessment was limited to the back of the cow and one observable side only.|
|Maximum waiting time before entering the milking parlour||Assessor standing outside the parlour recorded arrival times of cow groups/herds.||On farms with multiple herds, the assessor standing inside the parlour could not observe the arrival time of the second herd alongside other assessments.|
|Ingrown horn/Blind eye||Not included under main assessment but recorded if seen.||Difficult to observe systematically but needs to be recorded if observed.|
|Welfare Domain ||Assessments||Assessment Types||Site of Assessment|
|Inside Parlour||Outside/Around Parlour/Collecting Yard||Paddock or Track||Questionnaire|
|Nutrition||Body condition score †||Animal-based||✔|
|Rumen fill Score||Animal-based||✔|
|Distance to water points||Resource-based||✔|
|Environment||Cow Cleanliness †||Animal-based||✔|
|Maximum waiting time in the collecting yard †||Resource-based||✔|
|Noise level||Resource -based||✔|
|Mixing of Cows||Management-based||✔|
|Handling during milking||Stockmanship-based||✔|
|Farthest paddock distance||Resource-based||✔|
|Head position *||Animal-based||✔|
|Handling on track *||Stockmanship-based||✔|
|Yard space per cow *||Resource-based||✔|
|Backing gate speed *||Resource-based||✔|
|Skin Injury †||Animal-based||✔|
|Ingrown Horn †||Animal-based||✔|
|Blind eye †||Animal-based||✔|
|Vaccination record||Record based||✔|
|Lameness per year||Record-based||✔|
|Mastitis per year||Record-based||✔|
|Cow mortality per year||Record-based||✔|
|Replacement heifer deaths before calving/year *||Record-based||✔|
|Fear behavior †||Animal-based||✔|
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Sapkota, S.; Laven, R.; Müller, K.; Kells, N. Animal Welfare Assessment: Can We Develop a Practical, Time-Limited Assessment Protocol for Pasture-Based Dairy Cows in New Zealand? Animals 2020, 10, 1918. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101918
Sapkota S, Laven R, Müller K, Kells N. Animal Welfare Assessment: Can We Develop a Practical, Time-Limited Assessment Protocol for Pasture-Based Dairy Cows in New Zealand? Animals. 2020; 10(10):1918. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101918Chicago/Turabian Style
Sapkota, Sujan, Richard Laven, Kristina Müller, and Nikki Kells. 2020. "Animal Welfare Assessment: Can We Develop a Practical, Time-Limited Assessment Protocol for Pasture-Based Dairy Cows in New Zealand?" Animals 10, no. 10: 1918. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10101918