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DAFM Award

DAFM National Call 2014 14/S/890 Teagasc €78,261

Project Title:

Strategies to protect and improve the welfare of dairy cows in Irish systems of milk production

Project Coordinator:

Dr Laura Boyle

Project Abstract

Expansion of dairy herds post quota poses serious threats to the welfare of Irish dairy cows. One of the greatest concerns is an increase in the prevalence of subclinical and clinical lameness. This has negative implications for profitability and could erode the ‘welfare friendly’ image of Irish dairying systems. This project aims to better understand risks to cow welfare and to identify and develop strategies to protect it. These strategies will be focused on identification of welfare traits for inclusion in the Economic Breeding Index (EBI) and development of a cow welfare assessment scheme. A post-doctorate (PD) will be hired to review the literature to establish risk factors for cow welfare, to identify the main welfare issues likely to be of relevance in Irish dairying systems and to identify welfare traits for the EBI. The PD will evaluate international dairy cow welfare assessment schemes and their relevance for Irish systems of milk production. A survey of dairy farmers will be conducted to identify current/emerging management, housing, nutritional practices with relevance to cow welfare. From this a welfare assessment scheme for use in pasture based systems will be developed and priority areas for research identified. A social scientist will interview stakeholders in the dairy industry to determine perspectives on dairy cow welfare and ideas for ways in which cow welfare can be protected as the industry moves into a non-quota era.

Final Report:

Final Report 14 S 890 (pdf 445kb)