Farmers discuss cow housing, restriction of movement
An expert on how environments affect dairy cattle says more consumers are bringing the animal welfare discussion to the dairy industry.
Dr. Nigel Cook says U.S. dairies operate without any significant federal or state laws governing how to house and manage cattle, in stark contrast to Europe and the Scandinavian countries where public trust eroded around 25 years ago. “They govern the way they do certain things, and that really was the message to sort-of embrace that, capturing public trust and working with consumer concerns to make sure that we in the absence of laws can be seen to be doing the right thing.”
Cook says different countries emphasize different animal welfare issues, but consumer concern for animals is broad everywhere. “What to do with bull calves in Australia or parts of Europe, the grazing issue in the U.S., obviously tie-stall housing was a major discussion item here this afternoon with the concerns over the restriction of movement.”
And Cook says dairy farms should expect more pushback against the over-use of tie stalls. “Tying a cow up in a stall and keeping her there 24-hours a day, that’s going to be a tough sell for our consumers.”
Cook says each herd housing option has advantages and disadvantages, but like the pork and poultry industries, he expects consumers will start influencing how dairy animals are housed and managed.
Cook, Jen Walker from Denone and Nina Von Keyserlingk from the University of British Columbia hosted a panel discussion on dairy animal welfare during the recent Professional Dairy Producers business conference.