The influence of housing on milk production “An(other) point of view”
Ruiter, B.D.S. de
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For centuries cows have been kept for their meat and milk production. Since the first domestication of this species many things have changed. Their milk production capacity has increased enormously . The public opinion has changed as well, consumers expect more transparency and better animal welfare. Besides the public opinion, farmers become more aware of the fact that cow comfort has a positive influence on milk yield. Various studies evaluated the effect of improving animal welfare on animal health, animal behavior and production. Despite this knowledge, there remains a lack of scientific data and studies about the direct effect of several aspects of the housing conditions on the milk production. Several systems are developed to measure the animal welfare on farms, for example the Cow Comfort Score (CCS) developed by Van Eerdenburg et al. The objective of this study was to evaluate which part of the housing conditions specifically has the most influence on milk production. For this study 40 farms in the central part of Mexico were visited and their welfare was scored using the CCS. Also data about the milk production was gathered. Every aspect of the CCS was correlated to milk production. Several aspects (17) had a significant influence on the milk production. There were two important findings in this thesis: The first one was that there is a significant correlation between the total welfare score and the milk production. In other words the better the welfare, the higher the milk production. Secondly, according to this study several parameters which had a significant influence on milk production concerned parameters that provided information about the lying comfort in the stable: “Cubicles” (P=0,038, R=0,330), “Number standing idle” (P=0,045, R=0,327), “Cows lying in walkways” (P=0,015, R=0,380), “Cows are clean” (P=0,019, R=0,369), “Bedding is made of inorganic material” (P=0,045, R= 0,318), “Bedding is soft” (P=0,014, R= 0,384), “Bedding is clean and dry” (P= 0,045, R=0,319), “Stall surface” (P=0,040, R=0,326) and “Bedding is flat” (P=0,012, R=0,394). All mentioned parameters relate to the lying comfort. Hence, according to this thesis the lying comfort is the most important factor in the housing conditions regarding the milk production. From the data it can be concluded that multiple aspects of the cubicles are relevant for milk yield. Hence, it is important that every aspect of the design of a cubicle is right. When there is any form of compromise in the design of the cubicle, the positive effect is likely to be disappointing.