Consider cow welfare when designing housing

Published: Wed 22 Oct 2008 11:33 AM
New Zealand Veterinary Association
Media release
Wednesday 22 October
Consider cow welfare when designing housing
Dairy farmers should consider the health and welfare of their cows when building housing for their stock, says New Zealand Veterinary Association president Richard Wild.
A recent paper on the welfare of cows kept in grazing and housed systems, concluded that New Zealand dairy cows are generally better off living outside grazing pasture than being housed inside in barns.
"With New Zealand dairy farming expanding into new geographic areas, it is timely to evaluate the matter of housing," says Dr Wild. "Milking cows are valuable animals and deserve the best conditions we can provide."
The review paper, written by veterinarian Richard Laven and dairy scientist Colin Holmes, was published recently in the New Zealand Veterinary Journal. It lays out the advantages and disadvantages of housing for dairy cattle welfare in the New Zealand environment. One of the obvious benefits is protection from inclement weather.
"While housing gives the benefit of protecting cows from adverse weather – both hot and cold – results from overseas show it can detrimentally affect welfare by increasing the risk of mastitis and lameness," says Dr Wild.
"The types of lameness and mastitis are also different in housed cows and require different strategies for management."
He says housing cows is an expensive option, so getting the design right is critical as health and welfare issues need to be taken into consideration. Farmers also need to consider the cost incurred, not only in buildings, but also in increased labour requirements.
"Veterinarians can assist farmers who are designing stock housing, by helping them to anticipate and eliminate potential problems as far as possible," says Dr Wild.
"Animal health plans can be tailored to ensure farmers have systems in place to monitor stock and identify the different health problems that may be encountered in housed animals."
Dr Wild says there is a lot of information available about different dairying systems.
“New Zealand veterinarians and dairy farmers need to work together to ensure that dairying in this country benefits from reports on international experience.”

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