Animal welfare in bedded pack barns is often expected to be better than in free stall barns. In this study the Welfare Quality® Assessment protocol for dairy cattle was used to collect data on animal welfare indicators in 9 bedded pack barns and these scores were compared with scores from other housing systems.
In the last decade, attention for bedded pack barns has increased in reaction to the increasing concern about animal welfare in free stall barns. Although animal welfare in bedded pack barns is often expected to be better than in free stall barns, little research has been done. The objective of this research was to estimate levels of animal welfare in Dutch bedded pack barns and to compare these with levels of animal welfare in other housing systems. The Welfare Quality® Assessment protocol for dairy cattle was used to collect data on animal welfare indicators in 9 bedded pack barns. In addition, data on animal welfare indicators in 181 free stall and 13 tie stall barns, also collected by using the Welfare Quality protocol, were used from another study.
Housing and management characteristics differed between the nine bedded pack barns. For example, different bedding materials were used and cultivation methods of the bedding varied. A comparison between free stalls, tie stalls and bedded pack barns showed that for human-animal interaction (avoidance distance) and locomotion no significant differences existed between bedded pack barns and the other systems. Body condition differed slightly between housing systems. A significant difference existed for the behaviors shown in the three housing systems. Furthermore, in the free stall system, more cows were lying compared to bedded pack barns. Time needed to lie down was lower in bedded pack barns compared to free stall barns. Fewer cows in bedded pack barns had integument alterations, compared to free stall barns, but more cows in this system were dirty than cows in tie stall and free stall barns.
It was concluded that for some welfare indicators, welfare of cows in bedded pack barns was higher than the welfare of cows in other housing systems, whereas the welfare was worse for other indicators. A higher number of bedded pack barns is needed in future research to give more reliable insights in animal welfare levels in bedded pack barns and to enable a reliable comparison with other housing systems for dairy cows.
Student: EM Vinken
Supervisor: dr ir M de Vries