A “good life” for dairy cattle: developing and piloting a framework for assessing positive welfare opportunities based on scientific evidence and farmer expertise

Jessica Stokes*, Elizabeth Rowe, Siobhan Mullan, University Bristol, Rachel Horler, MJ Haskell, CM Dwyer, David Main

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

On-farm welfare assessment tends to focus on minimising negative welfare, but providingpositive welfare is important in order to give animals a good life. This study developed a positivewelfare framework for dairy cows based on the existing scientific literature which has focused ondeveloping positive welfare indicators, and trialled a participatory approach with farmers; refiningthe framework based on their recommendations, followed by a vet pilot phase on farm. The resultsrevealed that farmers and scientists agree on what constitutes “a good life” for dairy cattle. Farmersvalue positive welfare because they value their cows’ quality of life, and want to be proud of theirwork, improve their own wellbeing as well as receive business benefits. For each good life resource,the proportion of farmers going above and beyond legislation ranged from 27 to 84%. Furthermore,barriers to achieving positive welfare opportunities, including monetary and time costs, were notapparently insurmountable if implementation costs were remunerated (by the government). However,the intrinsic value in providing such opportunities also incentivises farmers. Overall, most farmersappeared to support positive welfare assessment, with the largest proportion (50%) supportingits use within existing farm assurance schemes, or to justify national and global marketing claims.Collaborating with farmers to co-create policy is crucial to showcase and quantify the UK’s highwelfare standards, and to maximise engagement, relevance and uptake of animal welfare policy, toensure continuous improvement and leadership in the quality of lives for farm animals.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2540
JournalAnimals
Volume12
Early online date22 Sep 2022
DOIs
Publication statusFirst published - 22 Sep 2022

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