van Eerdenburg, F. J. C. M., Di Giacinto, A. M., Hulsen, J. et al. 2021. A new, practical animal welfare assessment for dairy farmers. Animals 11(3), 881.
The Welfare Quality® assessment protocol (WQ) is the most extensive way to measure animal welfare. This study was set up to determine if resource-based welfare indicators, that are easier and faster to measure, could replace the more time consuming, animal-based measurements of the WQ. The WQ was applied on 60 dairy farms in the Netherlands, with good, moderate and poor welfare. The WQ protocol classified most farms (87%) as ‘acceptable’. Several of the animal-based measures of WQ correlated well with measures in the environment. Using these correlations, an alternative welfare assessment protocol (new Welfare Monitor) was designed, which takes approximately 1.5 h for a farm with 100 dairy cows. Because the opinion of farmers about welfare assessment is important if one wants to improve conditions for the cows at a farm, another objective of this study was to evaluate the usefulness of the new Welfare Monitor for the farmer. Over two years, the farms were visited, and advice was given to improve the conditions at the farm. After the first welfare assessment and advice, farmers improved the conditions for their cows substantially. Farms where the category score had increased made more improvements on average than those that did not upgrade.