Welfare Issues on Israeli Dairy Farms: Attitudes and Awareness of Farm Workers and Veterinary Practitioners

Animals (Basel). 2021 Jan 24;11(2):294. doi: 10.3390/ani11020294.


Attitudes toward practical dairy cow welfare issues were evaluated based on a questionnaire answered by 500 dairy farm workers and 27 veterinary practitioners. Primarily, the effect of demographic characteristics on attitudes toward cattle welfare was tested. Professionally, five themes were identified: effect of welfare awareness on productivity, knowledge of cattle's senses and social structure, effects of man-animal interactions on milk yield, pain perception and prevention, and knowledge transfer from veterinary practitioners to farm workers. Farms with a higher welfare awareness score also had higher annual milk yield, with an annual mean difference of 1000 L of milk per cow between farms with higher and lower awareness scores. Veterinary practitioners showed high awareness of cows' social structure, senses, and pain perception. Farm workers were aware of the influence of man-animal interactions during milking and stress effects on milk yield, and the possible effect of man's behavior on heifers and cows. Practitioners and farm workers had different views regarding pain perception, mostly involving mutilation procedures. All veterinary practitioners advocated the use of pain alleviation in painful procedures, but only some of them instructed the farm workers to administer it. The survey results emphasize the variation in welfare knowledge and practical applications across farms, and the interest of both the animals and their managers to improve applied knowledge of best practice.

Keywords: behavior; calves; dairy cows; farm workers; pain; veterinary practitioners.