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Assessment of welfare and productive performance in dairy cows organically reared in plains or hilly areas

By G. Martelli, H. Valla, D. Bucci, G. Zaghini, G. Vignola, L. Sardi

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The aim of this study was to investigate several production parameters and the level of welfare of organic dairy cows kept in two different geographical and social contexts. The study group included 1,751 cows from 19 organic dairy farms, 11 of which were situated in hilly areas and 8 in plains areas. After an examination had been made of the general characteristics of each farm, the following data were collected: milk production; milk protein and lipid content; somatic cell count (SCC) and microbial count; lameness score (LS); body condition score (BCS) and udder cleanliness score (UHS). Welfare level was assessed using Bartussek's ANI-35-L system and the van Roessel 'prototype for clinical welfare scoring'. Our data indicate that remarkable organisational and management differences exist between the two types of farms: farms in plains areas have a larger number of cattle and are corporate in structure rather than family run. The levels of welfare, health and production were shown to be high in both types of farms, though in some cases higher welfare scores were observed in farms situated in plains areas. The two types of 'welfare scores' we used were positively correlated. Our data indicate that organic farming of dairy cows successfully combines, in the large majority of cases, good levels of productivity, animal health and animal welfare; this latter aspect may be a valuable marketing point for organic milk, considering the propensity displayed by a significant portion of European consumers to buy food produced using systems that assure a high degree of animal welfare.

Date 2010
Publication Title Animal Welfare
Volume 19
Issue 1
Pages 17-23
ISBN/ISSN 0962-7286
Language English
Author Address Department of Vetrinary Morphophysiology and Animal Production (DIMORFIPA), Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Alma Mater Studiorum, University of Bologna, Via Tolara di Sopra 50, 40064 Ozzana Emilia (BO), Italy.
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal diseases
  2. Animal health and hygiene
  3. Animal physiology
  4. Animal rights
  5. Animal welfare
  6. Body condition
  7. Cattle
  8. Cells
  9. Characteristics
  10. Consumers
  11. Dairy animals
  12. Ecological agriculture
  13. Farms
  14. Health
  15. Hygiene
  16. Lameness
  17. Leukocytes
  18. Lipids
  19. Lipins
  20. Mammals
  21. Marketing
  22. Milk and dairy products
  23. organic culture
  24. organic farming
  25. peer-reviewed
  26. Plants
  27. productivity
  28. proteins
  29. somatic cell count
  30. udders
  1. peer-reviewed