A welfare assessment system for dairy cows on pasture
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Animal welfare is an important topic worldwide. For cows kept in cubicles, Van Eerdenburg et al. developed and validated a welfare scoring system for cows in cubicles. However, in countries with a warm climate cows are held on pasture all year long. To score the welfare of the cows on pasture in countries such as Uruguay, a barn-based cow comfort scoring system (Verschuuren, 2010; Wolf, 2010) was modified to enable welfare assessment of cows on pasture. The system is based on 13 chapters: general, waiting area, milking parlour, exit milking parlour, water, feeding sites, walkways, loading site, pastures, farmer and staff, environmental management and animal health. In this study the pasture based system is refined. This qualitative study is done during 4 weeks, by visiting 40 dairy farms in Uruguay with Holstein Friesian cows. All parameters were evaluated to establish whether they are required and are useful to determine a good perception of the welfare of the cows. Missing parameters were add to get a correct perception of the welfare of the cows. This results in a new system containing the chapters: general, milking parlour and pre milking yard, exit milking parlour, water, feeding sites, walkways, loading site, pastures, farmer and staff, environmental management, animal health and youngstock. With the suggested changes it is probably possible to achieve a useful and effective scoring system. This new system needs to be validated in future.