Comparative investigation on some welfare indicators of cattle under different housing systems

J. Mitev, T. Penev, Zh. Gergovska, Ch. Miteva, N. Vassilev, K. Uzunova

Abstract. Dairy cattle welfare is of exceptional importance in modern production systems. The purpose of the present study was to compare the effect of some of most popular contemporary solutions for free-stall housing of dairy cows on some welfare indicators. It was performed with 150 Holstein-Friesian cows in three farms as followed: housed freely in group boxes in a semi-open barn (farm A), and housed freely in group stalls, with individual cubicles of a different size (farms B and C). The results showed that the free housing in groups with straw bedding was optimal with regard to the prevalence of traumatism as seen from the least percentage of body decubitus ulcers – 2% of cows, but it was most unfavorable from the point of view of body hygiene level. The free housing in individual cubicles (farms B and C) with the specific cubicle and neck rail dimensions were a prerequisite for increased trauma incidence and were not compliant with the allowances of this welfare indicator. The application of systems for complex evaluation of the level of dairy cattle welfare allows for an easy detection of existing flaws and disadvantages at a specific farm and for timely suggestion of efficient measures for their correction.