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This study assessed the welfare of free-ranging yaks in Bhutan in the winter of 2018/2019. To this end, we observed behaviour and health status of yaks in three yak-farming regions (east, central and west) of Bhutan. In total, we assessed 567 cows and 549 calves for integumentary condition, body cleanliness, ocular and nasal discharge, diarrhoea signs, mutilations and gait. Moreover, we assessed 324 cows and 272 calves for avoidance distance and examined 324 cows for subclinical mastitis. The behaviour of the herds was observed in six consecutive 20-minute blocks. Each block was divided into two stages. The first stage (5 minutes) consisted of counting the number of animals eating, lying down, standing idle and walking. The second stage (15 minutes) consisted of counting the number of events of agonistic, allogrooming, flehming, self-licking, rubbing/scratching and playing behaviour. A linear mixed model was used to analyse regional differences in the behavioural states and events of yaks, with herd used as the random effect. Avoidance distance of calves in the central and western region was shorter than that of calves in the eastern region (P<0.001), but no differences were observed between lactating cows. A few instances of agonistic (0.01 event per animal/15 min) and flehming behaviour (0.06 event per animal/15 min) were observed. Yaks in the central and western region exhibited more scratching and rubbing behaviour (both 0.20 event per animal/15 min) than in the eastern region (0.11 event per animal/15 min; P=0.001), probably due to higher loads of ectoparasites. With respect to mutilations, bulls are often castrated which is generally done without analgaesics, which is considered very painful. Aside from several potential risk factors and some regional differences, the welfare status of yaks living in Bhutan was assessed as good at the time of visit.
|Title of host publication||Proceedings of the 8th International Conference on the Assessment of Animal Welfare at Farm and Group level|
|Editors||Laura Boyle, Keelin O'Driscoll|
|Publisher||Wageningen Academic Publishers|
|Number of pages||1|
|Publication status||Published - 16 Aug 2021|
|Event||8th International Conference on The Assessment of Animal Welfare at Farm and Group level - Cork, Ireland|
Duration: 16 Aug 2021 → 19 Aug 2021
|Conference||8th International Conference on The Assessment of Animal Welfare at Farm and Group level|
|Abbreviated title||WAFL 2021|
|Period||16/08/21 → 19/08/21|
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1/09/16 → 21/10/20