Risk factors and indicators of reduced welfare of grazing dairy cows from selected smallholder dairy farms in Midlands Province, Zimbabwe
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Zimbabwe’s smallholder dairying faces many challenges that affect the welfare of dairy cows; however, the status of this welfare has not yet been determined. A cross-sectional study was conducted in Midlands Province on 41 active smallholder dairy farms with 86 cows in winter and summer to determine the risk factors and indicators to impaired cow welfare. These objectives were achieved using farmer questionnaires and direct observations. Eleven percent of the observed cows were severely lame in summer while only 5% were severely lame in winter. Lameness was significantly associated with season, absence of shade, breed, and low dipping frequency; 58% of the cows had low body condition scores (BC < 3) and this low BC was associated with low frequency of protein (p = 0.002) and vitamin (p = 0.012) supplementation recorded in more than 52% of the farms visited. In winter, only 11% of the observed cows were heavily soiled (score 3), while in summer 64% of the cows were heavily soiled and this was associated with slurry accumulation in more than 80% of the observed cattle pens as well as the study season (p < 0.001). A quarter (26%) of the studied animals had visible teat lesions on the teat skin and this was associated with the type of lubricant used (p = 0.011). Only 34% of the cows allowed an approaching stockman to touch them and this was associated with shouting (p = 0.012) and whipping of cows (p = 0.002). The study concluded that welfare of dairy cows was poor in most of the smallholder dairy farms studied.
KeywordsRisk factors Indicators Cow welfare
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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