TotalDairy Seminar Coordinated auditing needed for animal welfare says Temple Grandin

All parts of the supply chain should take responsibility for animal welfare and carry out their own, simple audits, said world renowned animal behaviour expert Temple Grandin at the recent TotalDairy Seminar, Gloucestershire.

Professor Grandin said farmers should carry out their own internal assessment, buyers should hire a third party auditor to assess farms or processors, and should also be involved in a small proportion of auditing visits themselves (to check auditors).

"There's always three legs on the tripod in supply chain management - it doesn't matter what the product is….If you don't have one leg, it falls over," she said.

As part of a small group workshop at TotalDairy Seminar, Professor Grandin from Colorado State University, emphasised the need for simplicity and objectivity when assessing welfare. She ran through some critical control points or outcome measures for dairy cow welfare on farm. These included body condition scoring, lameness, dirty cows, dirty calves, ammonia levels and percentage of dead adult cattle. She stressed that only by measuring could you know if you had a problem.

"In three different studies, if you asked a dairyman what level of lameness they had, they underestimated it by half. You have to measure stuff," she explained.

In a seminar presentation on the importance of good stockmanship, Professor Grandin emphasised that equipment could not replace good management. "The point I want to get across is - management matters," she said.

She also stressed that there were real advantages to be had from acclimatising animals to situations and handling them quietly. For example, heifers acclimatised by walking through a race had improved reproductive performance shown by improved conception to AI. Tame dairy cows with a small flight zone were also shown to give milk.

She also highlighted the fact cattle were sensory based thinkers with visual memories and that their memories were very specific.

"A person in a pen and a person in an alley are two different things, they need to be acclimatised to both," she said.

Professor Grandin advised putting heifers through the parlour in advance of their first milking so it wasn't a "total surprise" and also avoiding injecting in the parlour as this "should be her safe place."

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