To gain insight into the farm practices and animal welfare issues on large dairy herds, we conducted a postal survey (n = 132). The questionnaire covered four areas: demographics, stand-off practices, management during extreme weather, and races. Respondents managed 910 ± 466 (mean ± SD) milking cows during the 2003 season. When asked to identify the most important animal welfare problem on their farm, 73% of the respondents named one of the following: lameness, disease, or nutrition/growth. Fifty-one percent of respondents used some form of stand-off area during periods of inclement weather. There are several management practices used with stand-off areas that are relevant to animal welfare including: provision of feed, shelter, space allowance, and surface type. During extreme winter and summer weather, a range of practices was used to manage cows, including changes in grazing patterns. For example, 61% of respondents used paddocks closer to the milking shed and 40% used sprinklers at the shed during hot weather. Finally, on average, cows walked 1.9 ± 0.8 km to the milking shed, and walking distance increased with the number of cows/farm. Farmers demonstrated awareness of animal welfare issues and implemented management practices that likely improve the well-being of their stock. KEYWORDS: animal welfare; dairy cattle; herd size; management practices.
Proceedings of the New Zealand Society of Animal Production, Volume 65, Christchurch, 127-131, 2005
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