A welfare assessment system for dairy cows on pasture.
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In Uruguay, and other countries with a warm climate, cows are held on pasture all year long. To score the welfare of the cows in countries like Uruguay the current system for cows in cubicles was converted to a system for farmers who keep their cows all year long on pasture. During six weeks 34 dairy cow farms in Uruguay with Holstein Friesian cows were studied in order to make a welfare scoring system for pasture-based dairy farms that is comparable with the barn-based cow comfort system from van Eerdenburg et al. (2009).12 The study was divided into seven phases. The first two phases consisted of studying the life of cows in cubicles and on pasture. Then the barn-based scoring system was converted and new parameters were added to the system. Subsequently it was determined how to measure the parameters, and points were assigned. In the final phase the scoring system was validated. The result is a scoring system with 86 parameters. These parameters are divided in 13 categories: general, milking parlour and waiting area, waiting area, milking parlour, exit milking parlour, water, feeding sites, walkways, loading site, pastures, farmer and staff, environmental management and animal health. This paper mainly focuses on the categories which include environmental factors that influence the welfare of cows. The validation of the system showed that scores were produced that were in accordance with the impression of experts in the field. The maximum amount of points to be obtained is 500. The maximum score is similar for the barn-based system and the pasture-based system. This makes it possible to compare the scores between farms from both systems. More research is required in order to improve and fine tune the scoring system and to find an answer to the question: Are cows that live on pasture happier than cows that live in a barn?