3 July 1998

A cornerstone of dairying

Transferring research on to

farms was the theme of last

weeks DRC dairy cow welfare

workshop funded by the

MDC. Here FW Farmer Focus

contributor Christian Fox

reports on the meeting, and

gives his opinion on its success

WELFARE is not just the trendy issue for the 90s but a fundamental cornerstone of dairy farming that is here to stay.

That was the message at the animal welfare workshop organised by the DRC, held last week at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester. It was one of a series of workshops being held regionally, free of charge to farmers, as part of the MDCs commitment to keep producers in touch with its work.

Crichton Royal-based SAC dairy specialist Dave Roberts said good animal welfare was an integral part of any dairy farming system, and is integral in the work carried out in many MDC research projects.

Dr Roberts gave a presentation on MDC-funded research on dairy cow welfare, including lameness, nutrition, cow tracks, heifer management and housing. He stressed that research results should not be taken as blueprints to be transferred literally on to the farm, but rather the concepts and ideas behind the results should be interpreted and adapted to suit the individual farm situation. This message was reinforced by Sir Colin Spedding: "People and farm systems are all unique, the purpose of research should be to give information to help those farms and people, not to impose results on them," he said.

Sir Colin outlined the work of the Farm Animal Welfare Council, which has identified three main welfare issues in dairying – lameness, mastitis and fertility. According to Sir Colin it is important to be clear what we mean by welfare. "Animal rights, which are difficult to define or apply, should not be confused with the responsibilities of those who keep or care for them."

A debate, chaired by John Alliston of RAC, covered more detail on MDC research on dry cow management and heifer rearing, the role of farm assurance and market domination by big retailers.

Supermarkets and other retailers were now running farm assurance schemes, and Sir Colin suggested that these were the best groups to do so as they had the confidence of the consumer in monitoring participating farms. Retailers also had the funds available to back up such assurance schemes, but producers at the workshop felt it was important to work with retailers to ensure standards were realistic and practical.

Research should help farms and producers, not impose results on them, and results should be adapted to suit individual farms.

WELFARE WORKSHOP

&#8226 Interpret results to suit farm.

&#8226 Research should help, rather than impose on producers.