Development and Pilot Study of a Welfare Assessment Protocol for Dairy Calves

John Patrick Barry, E. Kennedy, I.J.M. de Boer, E.A.M. Bokkers

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference paperAcademic

Abstract

As agricultural systems continue to develop and become more refined, so too must protocols used to assess the welfare of animals experiencing them. The aim of this research was to develop a welfare assessment protocol for pre-weaned dairy calves (<12 weeks old),and investigate, and improve, its reliability and feasibility through an on-farm pilot study. Using existing protocols, literature and expert consultation, animal based indicators were selected to assess welfare of dairy calves. Measurements include behavioural observations from 60 minute video recordings, health scoring, heart girths, and blood and faecal sample analyses. To successfully estimate welfare at farm level a representative sample of calves must be taken (i.e. male and female, from different age groups). To be able to identify risk factors and improvement options for calf welfare, management practises (e.g. colostrum management, post-colostrum feeding, weaning, hygiene, and health), are assessed by interviewing the farmer, and husbandry conditions are assessed using measurements such as temperature, wind-speed, space allowance, bedding quality, availability of fresh drinking water, concentrates, and forage, air ammonia concentration, and feeding equipment hygiene. Subsequent to protocol development, a pilot study was carried out on five commercial Irish dairy farms to evaluate its reliability and feasibility. Strengths and weaknesses of the protocol were identified during the pilot and modifications made accordingly. Further questions were included and a number of existing questions restructured to enhance clarity. Additional measurements, such as bedding depth and total air capacity, were included to provide more environmental information. Through the combined use of animal, management and environmental information, we are confident in having developed and piloted a reliable and feasible on-farm dairy calf welfare protocol. This protocol can be used for large scale onfarm dairy calf welfare assessments.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 7th International Conference on the Assessment of Animal Welfare at the Farm and Group Level
EditorsIngrid C. de Jong, Paul Koene
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
Pages156-156
ISBN (Electronic)9789086868629
ISBN (Print)9789086863143
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event7th International Conference on the Assessment of Animal Welfare at Farm and Group level - Ede, Netherlands
Duration: 5 Sep 20178 Sep 2017

Conference

Conference7th International Conference on the Assessment of Animal Welfare at Farm and Group level
CountryNetherlands
CityEde
Period5/09/178/09/17

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