Development and application of a protocol to evaluate herd welfare in Dutch dairy farms

J.H.M. Metz*, T. Dijkstra, P. Franken, K. Frankena

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


A protocol was developed and applied in a field survey to incorporate evaluation of herd welfare into the existing quality assurance program in Dutch dairy farming. Welfare was derived from the state of the biological needs of cows. Welfare targets and critical control points were selected according to HACCP principles, while restriction was to dairy herds with loose-cubicle housing (>90% of Dutch herds). The feasibility for measurement of the protocol was tested in a pilot study with 52 preselected, medium-sized herds for time needed for the observations (set at ~1 h to 2 h ), robustness of parameters (threshold of 80% true cases for repeated scores), and opinions from inspectors and farmers, which were variable but positive on average. The final protocol consisted of 16 animal-based and 14 environment-based parameters. From a random sample of 240 dairy herds (1% of Dutch farms), 164 herds (12,267 cows) with median herd size of 67 cows (SD=38) participated in the field survey, on a voluntary basis. The time needed for scoring averaged 78 min (SD=22) per herd. Animal-based parameters included leg disorders, normal and abnormal locomotion, external lesions, skin and teat problems, poor body condition, and fearfulness of the herd. Herd prevalence averaged highest for abnormal locomotion (43.8%), swollen hocks and knees (25.2%), dermatophytosis (24.2%), scabies (20.1%), and filthiness (17.4%). However, herd prevalence was lowest (96% of herds). Overall, our results indicate various directions for welfare improvement in practice, both at the individual farm and sector level.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-193
JournalLivestock Science
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Animal welfare
  • Dairy farming
  • Evaluation procedure


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