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Assessing the welfare of dairy cattle. (Special issue: food animal husbandry and the new millennium)

By J. Rushen

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This article suggests that health problems represent some of the main threats to the welfare of dairy cattle. Although disagreement often arises about what constitutes the main welfare problems, there is broad agreement that welfare is reduced by health problems. In recent decades, a marked increase has occurred in the incidence of various production diseases in dairy cattle of which lameness is the most prevalent. This article summarizes the evidence showing that lameness is affected by the genetics of the animal and by housing. High levels of production do not necessarily lead to increased lameness, although genetic correlations between levels of production and the incidence of lameness suggest that continued high selection for milk production will likely exacerbate the problem. Denying access to pasture may increase the incidence of some forms of lameness. Both the design of the stall and the type of walking surface can have a large effect on the incidence of hoof problems for the nonhuman animal kept in free-stall housing. Finally, management and nutritional factors can have a large effect, often obscuring the influence of housing. The behavior of the cow, particularly time spent lying or standing, can influence the likelihood of lameness.

Publication Title Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Volume 4
Issue 3
Pages 223-234
ISBN/ISSN 1088-8705
Publisher Taylor & Francis
DOI 10.1207/S15327604JAWS0403_05
Language English
Author Address Dairy and Swine Research and Development Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, P.O. Box 90, 2000 Road 108 East, Lennoxville, Quebec J1M 1Z3, Canada.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal diseases
  3. Animal husbandry
  4. Animal rights
  5. Animals
  6. Animal welfare
  7. Behavior and behavior mechanisms
  8. Bovidae
  9. Cattle
  10. Intensification
  11. Lameness
  12. Mammals
  13. Milk and dairy products
  14. peer-reviewed
  15. Ruminants
  16. ungulates
  17. vertebrates
  1. peer-reviewed