Kaurivi, Y. B., Hickson, R., Laven, R. et al. 2020. Developing an animal welfare assessment protocol for cows in extensive beef cow-calf systems in New Zealand. Part 2: Categorisation and scoring of welfare assessment measures. Animals 10(9), 1592.
The intention of this study was to develop standards for a welfare assessment protocol by validating potential categorisation thresholds for the assessment of beef farms in New Zealand. Thirty-two measures, based on the Welfare Quality and the University of California (UC) Davis Cow-Calf protocols, plus some indicators specific to New Zealand, that were assessed during routine yardings of 3366 cattle on 25 cow-calf beef farms in the Waikato region were categorised on a three-point welfare score, where 0 denotes good welfare, 1 marginal welfare, and 2 poor/unacceptable welfare. Initial categorisation of welfare thresholds was based upon the authors’ perception of acceptable welfare standards and the consensus of the literature, with subsequent derived thresholds being based upon the poorest 15% and best 50% of farms for each measure. Imposed thresholds for lameness, dystocia, and mortality rate were retained in view of the significance of these conditions for the welfare of affected cattle, while higher derived thresholds appeared more appropriate for dirtiness and faecal staining which were thought to have less significant welfare implications for cattle on pasture. Fearful/agitated and running behaviours were above expectations, probably due to the infrequent yarding of cows, and thus the derived thresholds were thought to be more appropriate. These thresholds provide indicators to farmers and farm advisors regarding the levels at which intervention and remediation is required for a range of welfare measures.