Welfare of dairy cows on small scale farms

Factors that affect the welfare of cows on small scale dairy farms are the same as those in other systems, EFSA experts have concluded. The scientific opinion published today reviews the information on small scale dairy farms and proposes a tool for assessing the welfare of cows.

Some of these factors, such as those related to the management of pasture – lack of shelter, the mixing of herds, etc. – are more likely to be present on small scale farms.

The welfare of cows on small scale farms can be assessed using the same animal-based measures – the animal’s responses to risk factors – as those that apply to other farming systems. However, their measurement may present specific challenges. For example, it usually takes longer to collect an adequate sample for evaluation of animal-based measures such as the lying position and raising behaviour due to the smaller numbers of cows.

EFSA has now developed the elements for the practical assessment of animal welfare on small scale farms”, says the Chair of the Working Group Christine Fourichon.

Experts of the Animal Health and Welfare Panel say that small scale farms across the EU are highly diverse in terms of size, husbandry practices, workforce, certification schemes, and use of local breeds.

This scientific opinion comes amid growing consumer interest in food production and handling, particularly, in food that is produced locally and under adequate animal welfare conditions.

This work will provide useful information to the European Commission for future policies on animal welfare.

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