'Welfare is important for dairy cow productivity' – Agriland

‘Welfare is important for dairy cow productivity’

“If a dairy cow produced a lot of milk, then it had to feel very good”, this is how Ceva’s Dr. Olivier Espeisse explained the link between dairy cow welfare and performance.

He highlighted the importance of being proactive when it comes to animal welfare during his presentation at the European Dairy Association Conference in Dublin Castle recently.

Good cow welfare has the benefit of increased milk production and the reduction in production diseases, such as mastitis and lameness, he said. Naturally, these will have financial implications for the farmer.

On average, Teagasc shows mastitis costs Irish farmers €60/cow/year. In addition, lameness is a significant welfare issue, costing up to €300/cow/year.

Irish systems of milk production have a competitive advantage over some other countries in that cows graze grass for the majority of the year. This is a good image when it comes to marketing Irish products.

However, the intensification of Irish dairy farming – following the abolition of the milk quotas – means there is an increased risk that animal welfare will be negatively effected and the ‘green’ image tarnished.

Olivier also noted the five freedoms which animal welfare guidelines are based around.

Five freedoms:

  1. Free from hunger and thirst;
  2. Free from discomfort;
  3. Free from pain, injury or disease;
  4. Free to express normal behaviour;
  5. Free from fear and distress.

Adhering to these welfare standards will be important for countries undergoing dairy expansion, he noted.

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