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Veterinary session

Evaluating welfare quality in Hungarian dairy herds
Fóris Borbála - year 6
Szent István University Faculty of Veterinary Science Department of Animal Hygiene, Herd Health and Veterinary Ethology
Supervisor: Dr. Viktor Jurkovich


Several approaches exist to the definiton of animal welfare depending on whether production, scientific studies or ethical considerations are placed to the fore. Since the parameters related to animal welfare can be examined thoroughly using scientific methods, animal welfare became a very highly developed area of scientific investigation in the last few years. When determining the welfare status of the animals usually three major issues take a role: the biological functions of animals, the feelings of the animal, and the capability of an acceptable natural life.

Most common measures in the assessment of animal welfare are animal based. The aim of the EU Welfare Quality research project was to develop a standardized test method, which integrates several aspects in order to get the most accurate picture of animal welfare. Based on this protocol 15 lactating dairy farms have been studied to assess the animal welfare situation in our country.

The protocol contains four key areas of animal welfare assessment, such as good feeding, good housing, good health and appropriate behaviour. 12 criteria and more than 30 measures belongs to the four main areas. With using these measures we get the scores of the four main fields and an overall welfare status as well. The welfare status can be excellent, good, acceptable and bad.

In my study 6 farms had good and 9 farms had acceptable evaluation score, but examining the results of the 12 criteria we can see more difference. In the category of good feeding the inadequate number and cleanliness of the drinkers influenced the scores the most. The good housing results were good on almost every farm, which is largely due to the fact that all assessed farms used loose housing technology. The results of good health were only acceptable on every farm, it is mainly due to the high rate of lameness and disbudding performed without anaesthesia or analgesia. When evaluating the appropiate behaviour, the assessment of human-animal relationship has an important role. The mentality of the workers is closely correlated with the results: cruel, rude treating shows in the results, as well as the patient, animal-loving attitude.

The protocol has a website which helps to count the scores of the four main fields and gives the overall assessment. This page also gives the opportunity to see the results of other European countries, and thus to the comparison.

Evaluating the welfare status of a farm has a role in improving the economy, because the adaptation of the animals to the negative external or internal effects takes a lot of time and energy.

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