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This article in JAS

  1. Vol. 92 No. 11, p. 5185-5192
     
    Received: Feb 10, 2014
    Accepted: Aug 28, 2014
    Published: November 20, 2014


    1 Corresponding author(s): danweary@mail.ubc.ca
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doi:10.2527/jas.2014-7725

Access to pasture for dairy cows: Responses from an online engagement

  1. C. A. Schuppli,
  2. M. A. G. von Keyserlingk and
  3. D. M. Weary 1
  1. Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver V6T 1Z4, Canada

Abstract

An online engagement exercise documented the views of Canadian and U.S. participants affiliated and unaffiliated with the dairy industry on the issue of pasture access for dairy cows. A total of 414 people participated in 10 independent web forums. Providing access to more natural living conditions, including pasture, was viewed as important for the large majority of participants, including those affiliated with the dairy industry. This finding is at odds with current practice on the majority of farms in North America that provide little or no access to pasture. Participant comments showed that the perceived value of pasture access for dairy cattle went beyond the benefits of eating grass; participants cited as benefits exposure to fresh air, ability to move freely, ability to live in social groups, improved health, and healthier milk products. To accommodate the challenges of allowing pasture access on farms, some participants argued in favor of hybrid systems that provide a mixture of indoor confinement housing and grazing. Understanding the beliefs and concerns of participants affiliated and unaffiliated with the dairy industry allows for the identification of contentious topics as well as areas of agreement; this is important in efforts to better harmonize industry practices with societal expectations.

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