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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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Webinar to focus on equine worm control

News Story 1
 Vets, veterinary nurses and RAMAs are being invited to join a free CPD webinar on late winter and early spring equine worm control.

Hosted by Zoetis vet Dr Wendy Talbot, the webinar aims to help prescribers understand which parasites are of most concern at this time of year. It will also cover how to assess parasite risk, selecting a suitable wormer and spring wormer plans, concluding with a Q&A session.

The webinar takes place on Thursday, 18 March at 10 am and will be repeated at 7 pm for those unable to listen during the day. To book the 10 am webinar, click here, and to register for the 7 pm webinar, click here

Click here for more...
News Shorts
Avian influenza confirmed in Lancashire

A case of highly pathogenic (HPAI H5N8) avian influenza has been confirmed in two captive peregrine falcons on a non-commercial, non-poultry premises near Skelmersdale, West Lancashire.

Following a risk assessment, APHA has declared that no disease control zones have been put in place surrounding this non-commercial, non-poultry premises.

Eighteen cases of HPAI H5N8 have now been identified in poultry and other captive birds in England. A housing order for poultry and captive birds introduced by Defra to control the spread of the disease expired on 31 March, although bird keepers in England are still required by law to comply with biosecurity measures.

For more information, please click here.