June 17, 2018

Does Cow Comfort Pay?

 |  By: Mike Opperman

Dairy producers understand keeping cows comfortable is the right thing to do on many levels, especially as it relates to animal welfare. But the costs for keeping cows comfortable can be substantial, especially if old barns have to be adjusted to fit the size of modern cows. The Canadian dairy industry recently updated a Code of Practice for animal care and created a mandatory on-farm animal care assessment program called proAction Animal Care.

A study involving research institutions across Canada and led by M. Villettaz Robichaud at the Universite Laval in Quebec evaluated the association between meeting or not meeting several criteria of the on-farm animal welfare assessment program and profitability indicators on the dairy. The indicators of production, somatic cell count, reproduction and longevity were retrieved by DHIA databases. Results of the study showed meeting the proAction lameness prevalence parameter was associated with an increased profitability margin over replacement cost of $236 compared with farms that did not meet the same parameters. However, the reproduction and longevity indicators studied were not significantly associated with either meeting or not meeting the proAction criteria.

Researchers concluded associations are present between meeting lameness benchmarks and dairy profitability. They also concluded meeting the animal welfare-based criteria associated with the proAction requirements did not negatively impact the productivity or profitability of the dairy operation.