Most dairy cattle are well treated in Québec. However, farmers could further improve the comfort of their animals by making certain improvements to the "homes" of their cows, which would have a positive impact on their productivity.
Many of these changes are inexpensive to implement, says Doris Pellerin, a professor in the Department of Animal Sciences at Université Laval.
Tethered animals can be extremely comfortable – and equally, if not more, productive – if some simple guidelines are respected.
The welfare of dairy cows is of concern to Québec consumers, because most Québec dairy cows are housed in tie-stall barns, in which cows are tethered to their stalls, unlike the rest of Canada, where the majority of farms use free-stall barns. And yet, tethered animals can be extremely comfortable – and equally, if not more, productive – if some simple guidelines are respected.
The researcher and her team visited around sixty farms in the Québec City area, in collaboration with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and Valacta, the Quebec-Atlantic Dairy Production Centre of Expertise. Their analysis led them to propose three changes: enlarge the stalls, move tie rails forward and use longer tie chains. On farms where these three measures had been applied, the researchers observed that the cows had 2.3 times less problems with lameness, as well as 3 times fewer injuries to the neck and knees.
Valacta transmitted these results to some 1,800 dairy producers through training workshops. The information was well received by producers, who have invested in another study, directed by Doris Pellerin, which seeks to quantify the economic impact of animal comfort on producers.
This research was financially supported by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentaion du Québec, Novalait and the FRQNT.