Animal welfare assessment of dual-purpose cattle in Mexico : with focus on health and behaviour
Sammanfattning: Chiapas is the poorest state of Mexico located southeast, with a hot and humid tropical climate and daily socio-economic challenges in rural conditions. The main cattle production system found is extensive dual-purpose production, producing both milk and meat. Society is getting increasingly aware of the ethical treatment of animals, with a growing concern about animal welfare and its importance in the production. Animal welfare assessments on farms are required to enable identification of any areas necessary of improvement and to inform the farm owner about the welfare status on their farm. Strategies for improving animal welfare can thereafter be implemented in order to improve the quality of animal production and its products. This study carried out welfare assessments on 34 farms, located in San Pedro Buena Vista, Chiapas. A modified welfare quality (MWQ) protocol from the Welfare Quality® Assessment protocol for cattle was used, adapted to the extensive production systems in the tropics. The Welfare Quality® protocol bases on the Five Freedoms and consists of the welfare principles “good feeding”, “good housing”, “good health” and “appropriate behaviour”. This study focuses on “good health” and “appropriate behaviour”. The main findings were that “absence of disease” and “absence of pain induced by management procedures” were areas that required improvements to achieve a better animal welfare. These criteria are also significantly positively correlating (r = 0.44, p = 0.0007). All farms (100 %) acquired a mean value (MV) score above the minimum score for improved level (>60.0) in relation to all eleven welfare criteria of the total study, where 100 was the maximum score. According to the seven criteria of health and behaviour, four of these had a MV above excellent level (>80.0), one criteria a MV just below excellent (80) and two criteria a MV of acceptable (>20.0). A total of 19 farms (56 %) scored above acceptable level (>20.0) in all seven welfare criteria, and two farms (6 %) scored not classified (<20.0) in two welfare criteria each. The welfare criteria “expression of other behaviours” and “good human-animal relationship” acquired the highest scores of animal welfare. The behaviour was good according to the protocol and the animals appeared to be healthy and prosperous. A total of 2031 animals were included in this study, with 782 cows (39 %) in milking production at the time. Of these 782 cows, only 8 cows (1 %; divided on six farms) were lame, 8 cows (1 %) had visible signs of mild integument lesions and 13 cows (2 %) had severe integument lesions. This indicates a major benefit for animals in these types of systems mainly kept on pasture and little concrete, with advantages of soft natural impact of the legs and hoofs decreasing the risks of lameness. Despite the outdoor management and lack of hygiene there were few injuries of the animals, indicating that these extensive systems on pasture provides a standard with good animal welfare. The animals were mainly kept on extensive pasture together, both cows, calves and bulls. Due to this united management, an extended study was carried out after assessing thirteen farms, with maternal and sexual behaviour and interactions between calves. This study presented a major maternal behaviour, being one of the natural behaviour of the cow if given the opportunity and since the calves often were young. Also, suckling cows decreases the risk of mastitis hence the cleaning of the teats, concluding that suckling cows are the future for intensive systems. Further improvements of the MWQ protocol are required and future studies should focus on health care management to improve “good health”. It is also important to provide knowledge or motivation to the farmers to enable improvement of their animal welfare, and to find alternative management practices that has economical potential to increase their productivity. To improve the social interaction and health it would be beneficial to let the cow spend more time with the calf during longer periods or all day.
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