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Welfare Assessment of 30 Dairy Goat Farms in the Midwestern United States

By Melissa N. Hempstead, Taylor M. Lindquist, Jan K. Shearer, Leslie C. Shearer, Vanessa M. Cave, Paul J. Plummer

Category Journal Articles

Dairy goat animal welfare assessment protocols have been developed and conducted
in Europe and the United Kingdom for dairy goats; however, there are no published
reports of large-scale welfare assessment for dairy goats on farms in the Midwestern
United States (US). Therefore, the objective of this study was to perform welfare
assessment of lactating dairy goats and identify the most prevalent welfare issues on
30 farms across the Midwestern US. Thirty dairy goat farms (self-selected) were enrolled
in the study if they shipped milk for human consumption (regardless of herd size). The
number of lactating does on each farm ranged from 34 to 6,500 goats, with a median
number of 158 lactating does (mean ± SD: 602 ± 1,708 lactating does). The protocol
used was developed fromavailable literature on goat welfare assessment butmodified for
use in the Midwestern US. Observations were made without handling the animals and
included 22 animal-based indicators evaluated at the group- and individual-level. The
observations were conducted during ∼3–5 h during a milking session (either morning or
afternoon) and time in the home pen. Principal components analysis (PCA) was carried
out on the welfare assessment data from each farm. The first two dimensions of the
PCA explained 34.8% of the variation. The PCA biplot indicated correlations between
indicators. The most prevalent conditions observed across the 30 farms included any
knee calluses (80.9%), any claw overgrowth (51.4%), poor hygiene (14.9%), skin lesions
(8.9%), poor hair coat condition (8.3%) and any ear pathology (8.0%). These results are
the first to provide the Midwestern US dairy goat industry with information to improve
commercial dairy goat welfare.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2021
Publication Title Frontiers in Veterinary Science
Volume 8
Pages 12
DOI 10.3389/fvets.2021.646715
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal husbandry
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Assessment
  4. Dairy animals
  5. Goats
  6. open access
  1. open access