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Cows' wellbeing may be impacted without access to outside pasture
"We hope that our research encourages farmers, retailers, government and consumers that pasture access is important for cow welfare, and should be protected." Andrew Crump.

Study assesses cows' emotional state when housed indoors full-time.

New research led by Queen’s University Belfast has found that dairy cows' emotional wellbeing may be damaged by being kept indoors full-time.

The study aimed to assess whether cows possess the same 'judgment bias' that humans do – whereby negative moods are more likely to lead to negative judgements about ambiguous cues or situations.

Dr. Gareth Arnott, senior lecturer in Animal Behaviour and Welfare at Queen’s University, explains: “Animal welfare scientists and dairy consumers have long been concerned that depriving dairy cattle of pasture access harms their welfare.

“Pasture access can promote natural behaviour, improve cows’ health, and cows given the choice spend most of their time outside. However, the effects of pasture access on dairy cows’ psychological wellbeing have been poorly understood – that is what our judgement bias study intended to measure.”

The researchers collaborated with the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute for the study, which has been published in Scientific Reports. The team gave 29 Holstein-Friesian dairy cows 18 days of overnight pasture access and 18 days of full-time indoor housing.

After this, each cow was trained to approach a food rewarded bucket location and to not approach an unrewarded bucket location. Then, to test judgement bias, the researchers presented the cows with buckets in between the trained locations. Cows that approached these buckets demonstrated an 'optimistic' judgement bias – as they expected a reward under ambiguous conditions.

The results showed that cows kept indoors full-time approached the known rewarded bucket location more quickly, suggesting a positive emotional state.

Lead author of the paper Andrew Crump said: “Increased reward anticipation suggests that an animal has fewer rewards in its life, so our results indicate that pasture is a more rewarding environment for dairy cows, which may induce more positive emotional wellbeing than full-time housing.

“We hope that our research encourages farmers, retailers, government and consumers that pasture access is important for cow welfare, and should be protected. In countries where full-time housing is common, we hope that ours and other welfare studies challenge this trend.”

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Rabbit Awareness Week set to return this summer

News Story 1
 Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW) is returning this summer, running from 24-28 June 2024. The theme for this year will be 'Healthy Diet, Happy Bunnies'.

The focus on rabbits' diet comes after the most recent PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report report revealed that 42 per cent of veterinary professionals identified inappropriate diet as one of the five most important rabbit welfare issues that need to be address.

The campaign will include veterinary blogs, videos, and digital waiting room resources. Practices can sign up to receive updates about RAW. 

Click here for more...
News Shorts
CVS Group hit by cyber attack

CVS Group, which owns more than 450 veterinary practices in the UK, has been hit by a cyber attack.

In a statement, the group said the incident involved unauthorised external access to a limited number of its IT systems. As soon as the attack was discovered, the group took its IT systems temporarily offline, causing 'considerable operational disruption'.

It has warned that the security steps taken and ongoing plans to move its operational systems and IT infrastructure to the Cloud are likely to have an ongoing impact over a number of weeks.

Due to the risk that personal information was accessed, CVS has informed the Information Commissioner's Office. The company is working with third party consultants to investigate the incident.