Implementation of the Welfare Quality® protocol in dairy farms raised on extensive, semi-intensive and intensive systems in Costa Rica
Adalinda Hernández, Sandra Estrada König, Juan Jose Romero Zúñiga, Carlos Salvador Galina, Charlotte Berg, Mariano Rojas Gonzales, Alice DiGiacinto Villalobos
Most developing countries are situated in non-extreme climates; this characteristic facilitates outdoor farming the whole year around and animals are kept at pasture most of the day. This characteristic may influence the feasibility of some animal welfare assessment protocols developed for intensive systems. With the objective of testing the Welfare Quality® protocol for dairy cattle in Costa Rica, 60 farms in three different farming systems were assessed. The farms were visited only once to assess the observational part and workers were interviewed to obtain the information related to the management and health of the animals. Descriptive statistics for continuous variables was performed; a one-way Anova and a multiple Student’s t-test were applied for a comparison between groups of farms, in general and by each aspect. The farms were grouped according to the management system: Intensive, semi-intensive and extensive. None of the groups reached an excellent welfare state in all three principles of the protocol (good feeding, good health and appropriate behaviour), and only the extensive group achieved an excellent welfare state in good housing. The principle of good health was the lower for the three systems and on average all farms were placed below a neutral welfare state. The protocol underlines differences between the farms studied. There might be a need for modifications of the assessment protocol directed towards specific features in extensive and semi-intensive farms. Indicators of well-being for this type of enterprises are in demand.
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