Agriculture Reference
In-Depth Information
injury, behavioral problems, health impairments, mortality,
and other environmental conditions that negatively impact
animals. Sometimes it is a lateral move to change from one
system to another in terms of welfare indicators, because cur-
rent alternatives still present pros and cons to sow welfare;
but now there's the added expense of installing an entirely
new system and training workers to learn how to manage the
new system. Some believe such a change may be worth the
trade-offs, whereas others do not.
Consider a specific case one of the authors researched as
part of her graduate studies, involving male dairy cattle raised
for beef. Since the calf is taken from its mother at birth, the
farmer must perform all the duties of the mother. Calves are
especially vulnerable to sickness at this age, so a sanitary envi-
ronment is imperative. One housing option is a hutch with
slatted floors, where the manure falls below the animal and
separates the animal from its excrements, reducing parasites
and disease, but providing only hard surfaces for the calf to
rest. An alternative is a hutch with bedding, like straw or saw-
dust, but no separation of the calf and its excrements. The calf
may have a preference for the hutch with bedding (depend-
ing on the weather). However, it is unaware that the pen with
bedding will put it into greater contact with its own feces and
bacteria, increasing the chance of sickness, so we can't simply
ask the calf which pen is better.
The author's research allowed her to measure the extent to
which bedding might increase sickness. For instance, it quanti-
fied the differences in airborne bacteria concentrations, finding
that bedding resulted in more than twice the concentrations
of airborne bacteria than slatted floors. However, the research
could not say that one system was better than the other for the
animal overall, because both options had both pros and cons
for the well-being of the calf. The research can only point out
where areas of concern may exist, so that current and future
systems can prevent conditions that can impede the welfare
of animals.
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