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Open AccessArticle

The Assessment of Housing Conditions, Management, Animal-Based Measure of Dairy Goats’ Welfare and Its Association with Productive and Reproductive Traits

1
Veterinary Practitioner, 10100 Torino, Italy
2
Department of Veterinary Science, University of Turin, L.go Braccini, 2, 10095 Grugliasco (TO), Italy
3
Department of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences, University of Turin, L.go Braccini, 2, 10095 Grugliasco (TO), Italy
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2019, 9(11), 893; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9110893
Received: 11 September 2019 / Revised: 23 October 2019 / Accepted: 29 October 2019 / Published: 1 November 2019
Small ruminant production systems are generally perceived by consumers to be associated with a high standard of welfare, notably in relation to aspects of traditional breeding. However, their performances have reached the same levels of the dairy cow sector, with similar negative externalities. We aimed to evaluate the welfare of dairy goats of 32 farms located in Northwestern Italy by the application of an on-farm assessment protocol. The farms were classified as ‘intensive’ or ‘semi-intensive’ according to the access to pasture. Overall, we observed an adequate level of animal wellbeing both in intensive and semi-intensive farming systems. This is possible thanks to the increased knowledge on goat breeding characteristics, and to the fact that veterinarians and farmers understood the importance of welfare protection to achieve a better health, although some challenges remain, such as the farmers’ approach toward animals. The importance of the farmer’s role is highlighted by the positive association between the milk yield and the presence of the owner on the farm.
The aim of the study was to evaluate the welfare of dairy goats of 32 farms located in Northwestern Italy, applying an on-farm assessment protocol, centered on animal-, resources- and management-based measures. The farms were classified as ‘intensive’ or ‘semi-intensive’ according to access to pasture. During each on-farm visit, a checklist was compiled, based on specific scores for housing and management conditions, and animals’ nutritional status, health, and behavior. Finally, the possible association between welfare measures and productive and reproductive traits was assessed. Overall, we observed an adequate level of animal wellbeing both in intensive and semi-intensive farming systems. This is possible thanks to the increased knowledge on goat breeding characteristics, and to the fact that veterinarians and farmers understood the importance of welfare protection to achieve a better health. Higher milk production was associated to some management practices (presence of the owner on the farm, high frequency of bedding change), and to seasonal breeding (which was mainly performed in the intensive farming). Moreover, it was associated to a quantity of urea in the milk comprised between 33 and 44 mg/dL. In intensive farms, the prevalence of caseous lymphadenitis was significantly higher compared to non-intensive farms. The semi-intensive breeding system positively influences the animals’ behavior. View Full-Text
Keywords: dairy goats; farming systems; welfare assessment; productive and reproductive traits dairy goats; farming systems; welfare assessment; productive and reproductive traits
MDPI and ACS Style

Tiezzi, F.; Tomassone, L.; Mancin, G.; Cornale, P.; Tarantola, M. The Assessment of Housing Conditions, Management, Animal-Based Measure of Dairy Goats’ Welfare and Its Association with Productive and Reproductive Traits. Animals 2019, 9, 893.

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