World leading in animal care

World leading animal care defined

What do we mean when we talk about world leading animal care? Defining this has been a crucial milestone in our efforts to gain clarity on what we want to achieve through our Dairy Tomorrow commitment to be world leading in animal care. DairyNZ recognised the importance of engaging with multiple groups in this process, and hearing their voices in the definition. The outcome is a diagram which shows the different views each group has on world leading animal care and the interactions and commonalities between the groups.

What we have achieved

Farmer working groups came together to think about the standards on farm that would ensure we are world leading in animal care. Dairy Farmers who have high standards of care worked together over four sessions to look at the practical application of world leading animal care.

The passion these farmers have for their cows was clear. They came up with a Bronze Silver Gold tiered framework, providing options for continuous improvement in the areas of nutrition, the cows’ environment, health and behaviour. The groups also recognised the impact people have on animal care, so an additional people section was included.

Caring for our animals

Caring for cows is at the heart of dairy farming. We asked some of the farmers we are working with to share what it means to them to care for their animals.

How do cows experience the world?

An essential part of us delivering world leading animal care is understanding more about how cows experience the world. We can’t ask animals how they feel, but a number of researchers are developing exercises that will provide us with more information about how cows feel in certain situations around the farming day or calendar.

New Zealand is proud to be part of world leading research that is trying to understand all animals more. Researcher Dr Heather Neave, who is joining welfare scientists at AgResearch to look at exactly this challenge, will also be helping us at DairyNZ to deliver world leading animal care through great science.

Heather received her MSc and PhD degrees in Applied Animal Biology specializing in animal welfare of dairy cattle at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

Heather’s research has covered a range of welfare topics including health, natural behaviour, and emotional states of dairy cattle. Her PhD work investigated how personality or temperament of individuals affects their ability to cope with stressors in their feeding environment, especially during weaning and competition at the feeder.

Heather’s other work has focused on feeding and weaning practices of dairy calves, the emotional response to pain after dehorning measured with a cognitive bias task, and behavioural changes in response to illness in transition dairy cows.

Heather’s current research interests in dairy cattle include the development of novel methods to assess positive welfare states, understanding why we see large individual variability in growth, productivity and fertility and how this relates to feeding behaviour patterns, and the long-term outcomes of the early-life environment of dairy calves.

Dr Heather Neave