Benchmarking welfare indicators in 73 free-stall dairy farms in north-western Spain


The aim of this study was to describe the status of body condition score (BCS), hock injuries prevalence, locomotion and body hygiene score as animal welfare measures in 73 free-stall dairy cattle farms in Lugo (Spain). A benchmarking process was established across farms: (1) the animal-based indicators were ordered from low to high values; (2) The farms were classified into three categories based on the number of indicators within less than the 25th percentile, 25th to 75th percentile and above the 75th percentile. The median prevalence of unsuitable BCS, hock injuries and clinical lameness was (median (range)) 51.7 per cent (13.3 to 89.5 per cent), 40.0 per cent (7.0per cent to 100 per cent) and 9.0 per cent (0per cent to 60.0 per cent) respectively. The dirtiness of the cow's coat had a high prevalence (73.0 per cent (37.5per cent to 100 per cent)). Most farms did not display consistently good or poor animal-based indicators and each farm had its own set of strong and weak points. Moreover, facilities design and management practices were described to understand source of the observations made of the cows. The incidence of overstocking was 31.5 per cent for stalls and 26.0 per cent for headlocks. The front lunge space was reduced (<90 cm) on most dairies (90.4 per cent). Signs of poor natural ventilation (cobwebs or humidity on the roof) and ammonia odour were observed on 32.8 per cent and 85.0 per cent of the barns totally closed or with a side openingless than 50 per cent of the wall height. The milking parlour was designed with two or more turns more than 90° (9.3 per cent), and failed to allow cows to see the parlour before entering (45.2 per cent). On 52.0 per cent of dairies, more than 15 per cent of the cows had to be forcefully moved into the milking parlour. In conclusion, there was a big variation in the animal welfare levels within and across farms and they could benefit from others by changing management practices related to facilities and herds.

DOI: 10.1136/vetreco-2016-000178

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@inproceedings{Trillo2017BenchmarkingWI, title={Benchmarking welfare indicators in 73 free-stall dairy farms in north-western Spain}, author={Yolanda Trillo and Luis Angel Quintela and M{\'o}nica Barrio and Juan Jos{\'e} Becerra and Ana Isabel Polo Pe{\~n}a and Marcos Vigo and Pedro Garcia Herradon}, booktitle={Veterinary record open}, year={2017} }