AUSTRALIA – Increasing herd size does not necessarily imply stretched farms keeping unhappy cows but it does bring risk factors, according to a PhD study on Australian units.
Management needs to keep pace with growing herds, ensuring animal welfare is not compromised, says a study quoted by the Australia Veterinary Association this week.
Dr David Beggs, University of Melbourne, underlined risks as; increased grain feeding, lower staffing per cow and increased milking time.
However, he said: “Larger enterprises are more likely to have modern rotary dairies that reduce milking time.
"They may also be more likely to have infrastructure to electronically identify, monitor and feed individual cows, they may be more likely to use professional advice and provide superior nutrition, and they may have greater capacity for staff training and general quality assurance systems.”
The survey, conducted last year, revealed 95 per cent 863 farms with a herd average of 304 believed their cow to be content “most of the time”.
He stressed there was no evidence of higher disease levels on larger farms.
“This can probably be explained by larger enterprises having access to better training and education of staff, routine veterinary herd visits, separate milking of the main herd and the sick cows, transition diets before calving and written protocols for treatment of disease.”
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