Kaurivi, Y. B., Laven, R., Hickson, R. et al. 2020. Developing an animal welfare assessment protocol for cows in extensive beef cow–calf systems in New Zealand. Part 1: Assessing the feasibility of identified animal welfare assessment measures. Animals 10(9), 1597.
Potential measures suitable for assessing welfare in pasture-based beef cow–calf systems in New Zealand were identified from Welfare Quality and UC Davis Cow-Calf protocols. These were trialled on a single farm and a potential protocol of 50 measures created. The aim of this study was to assess the feasibility of the measures included in this protocol on multiple farms in order, to develop a credible animal welfare assessment protocol for pasture-based cow–calf farms systems in New Zealand. The assessment protocol was trialled on 25 farms over two visits and took a total of 2.5 h over both visits for a 100-cow herd. The first visit in autumn included an animal welfare assessment of 3366 cows during pregnancy scanning, while the second visit in winter included a questionnaire-guided interview to assess cattle management and health, and a farm resource evaluation. Through a process of eliminating unsuitable measures, adjustments of modifiable measures and retaining feasible measures, a protocol with 32 measures was created. The application of the protocol on the farms showed that not all measures are feasible for on-farm assessment, and categorisation of identified animal welfare measures into scores that indicate a threshold of acceptable and non-acceptable welfare standards is necessary.