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Effects of management system on dairy cow welfare

C. D. Dechow, E. A. Smith, R. C. Goodling

ECONOMIC pressure to increase the efficiency of dairy production could have a negative impact on dairy cow welfare. This study aimed to determine the impact of various management systems on welfare outcomes in dairy cows in the USA.

Dairy Herd Information (DHI) technicians were asked to complete a questionnaire during routine visits to farms in Pennsylvania during summer 2006 and 2007. Data were collected on housing systems, feeding systems, pasture management strategies, bedding type, labour management practices, and other farm characteristics. DHI records were used to determine welfare outcomes, including mortality, culling by 60 days of lactation, survival to six years or more and fifth parity or more (‘aged cows’), somatic cell count, milk yield, and milk composition. Outcomes were evaluated using multivariable linear regression models.

Questionnaires were completed for 314 dairy herds. Five herd management systems were identified: free-stalls with complete confinement (37 herds), free-stalls that allowed outdoor access (76), tie-stalls with complete confinement (52), tie-stalls with outdoor access that fed a total mixed ration (72), and tie-stalls with outdoor …

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