PhD theses

All Wageningen University PhD theses

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    Wageningen PhD theses

    This database contains bibliographic descriptions of all Wageningen University PhD theses from 1920 onwards. It is updated on a daily basis by WUR Library.

    Author abstracts and/or summaries are added to all descriptions. A link to the full text dissertation is added to the bibliographic description. In a few cases, no electronic version is available, mostly because of copyright issues.

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    mail icon WUR Library, 9 july 2012


Record number 2009678
Title Foot disorders in dairy cattle : a socio-economic approach to improve dairy cow welfare
show extra info.
Mariëlle Bruijnis
Author(s) Bruijnis, M.
Publisher [S.l. : s.n.]
Publication year 2012
Description 174 p fig., graf., tab
Notes Proefschrift Wageningenshow all notes
Met lit. opg. - Met samenvatting in het Engels en Nederlands
ISBN 9789461733924
Tutors Stassen, Prof. dr. E.N. ; Hogeveen, Dr. ir. H.
Graduation date 2012-11-02
Dissertation no. 5343
Author abstract show abstract

 Foot disorders and the resulting lameness are the most important welfare problem in modern dairy farming. Despite much knowledge about foot disorders and their risk factors,a reduction in the prevalence of foot disorders and lameness has not been achieved. To improve dairy cattle welfare, it is important to increase the awareness of stakeholders. Therefore, the aim of this thesis is to increase the awareness about the problem of foot disorders in dairy farming. A socio-economic approach is used to gain insight into this welfare problem and find strategies to improve dairy cow foot health. The first part of the thesis, based on modeling, aims to gain more insight into the consequences of different foot disorders, clinical and subclinical, and the intervention measures to improve dairy cow foot health. The model studies, using a dynamic stochastic simulation model, aimed at both the economic losses and consequences for dairy cow welfare. The economic consequences included costs due to milk production losses, premature culling, prolonged calving interval, labor of the dairy farmer, costs for the foot trimmer, visits of a veterinarian, treatment costs, and discarded milk. For a default farm the costs averaged €3,474 per year; an annual loss of €53 per average cow in the herd. The costs of subclinical foot disorders make up 32% of all costs due to foot disorders. To calculate the welfare impact, the pain scores for each foot disorder in clinical and subclinical stage were estimated and used in the simulation model. The pain was used as an indicator as it was assumed to reflect the impact on all three aspects of animal welfare (health and functioning, feeling, natural living). On average each cow in the herd obtains a negative welfare impact score of 12, which is 20% of the maximum welfare impact score. Clinical foot disorders caused 46% of the welfare impact due to foot disorders. The considerable impact of subclinical foot disorders implies that the problem is likely to have more impact than stakeholders are aware of. Intervention measures were modeled when they were applicable on a dairy farm with cubicle housing. The model outcomes indicated that improving lying surface and performing additional foot trimming were cost-effective measures. Reducing stocking density was assessed to be break even. The improved lying surface and reduced stocking density also have a relative high welfare benefit. The model studies revealed gaps in knowledge about the problem of foot disorders and directions for new studies have been indicated. The second part deals with moral and social aspects. It was explored whether longevity is both a morally relevant aspect in the discussion on killing animals and a constitutive element of animal welfare, rather than as a mere indicator of animal welfare. This exploration included two steps. A first step entails a shift from welfare as a concept based mainly on biological knowledge to the notion that animal welfare is based on and informed by biological knowledge but is equally driven by moral norms. The second step entails a shift from views on animal welfare in terms of functioning or feeling well to a view on animal welfare that includes the aspect of natural living in which species-specific preferences and species-specific development are important. In the practice of dairy farming the inclusion of longevity in welfare assessment implies that premature culling is not a neutral act, but one that can affect animal welfare because of its implications for the longevity of a cow. Furthermore, insight was gained into the attitude of dairy farmers regarding dairy cow foot health and their intention to take action to improve dairy cow foot health. The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) was used to determine drivers and barriers to take action. Most farmers intended to improve dairy cow foot health, however, the intention was moderate. Most important driver seemed to be the achievement of better foot health with cost-effective measures. Possible barriers to taking action were labor efficiency and the effect of achieving an improved dairy cow foot health only a long time after taking action. It seemed that measures other than the routinely and already familiar ones were not an option for most farmers. The feed advisor and foot trimmer seemed to have most influence on intentions to take action to improve dairy cow foot health. Subclinical foot disorders were not valued as important with respect to animal welfare. Moreover, 25% of the respondents did not believe cows could suffer pain. Most farmers did indicate that good care for the cows is important, but that was not associated with the intention to improve dairy cow foot health. In this thesis it is concluded that, based on developments in our valuing of and dealing with animals, the current situation with regard to dairy cow foot health is not acceptable. The farmer is the one responsible to provide for good health and welfare of the cows. However, the interpretation of animal welfare by most farmers, a restricted view on function and health, is different from the broader concept of animal welfare as proposed in this thesis and also differs from the concept people hold in society. Furthermore, a farmer needs to weigh the importance of improving foot health, and animal welfare, against other issues at the farm. In order to achieve improvements in dairy farming, the whole sector needs to acknowledge animal welfare as a concept that entails more than health and functioning. This will lead to an increased importance of improving dairy cow foot health, making it more a priority to take concerted action.

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Keyword(s) dairy cattle / dairy cows / foot diseases / animal welfare / animal health / socioeconomics / simulation models / losses / longevity / dairy farming
Categories Cattle / Animal Health and Welfare
Publication type PhD thesis
Language English
About (Dutch) Klauwaandoeningen en de kreupelheid die daardoor ontstaat zijn een belangrijk probleem in de huidige melkveehouderij. Op basis van de incidentie, duur en ernst van klauwaandoeningen, worden ze aangemerkt als het belangrijkste welzijnsprobleem. Ondanks dat er veel kennis is over de klauwaandoeningen en de risicofactoren, is het probleem nog niet afgenomen. Bovendien onderschatten melkveehouders de grootte van het probleem van klauwaandoeningen, evenals de relatie met kreupelheid.
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