Welfare is about thriving, not surviving

11-07-2019 | |
Photo: Anne van der Woude
Photo: Anne van der Woude

Excellent calf and youngstock welfare can be achieved by ensuring animals are thriving, not surviving, according to Jim Reynolds, an international expert in dairy welfare.

Reynolds, a professor of large animal medicine and welfare at Western University of Health Sciences in California, was the key speaker at a recent AHDB strategic farm meeting on youngstock welfare, held at Chance Hall Farm in Cheshire.

Making use of natural behaviours

The event included a tour of the farm, during which Reynolds discussed the science behind calving, calf management and the transition phase, linking this with the host farmers’, Karen and Tom Halton’s, management systems. For Reynolds, it is important to treat animals with compassion, dignity and respect. He explained how welfare can be maximised by understanding and making use of natural behaviours. “A cow’s instinct is to hide her calf somewhere quiet and secluded so she can go and eat, while the calf safely sleeps. “We can take advantage of this by managing the separation of cow and calf during this window to minimise stress and anxiety, improving welfare,” he said.

Photo: Anne van der Woude

Photo: Anne van der Woude

Welfare is about animals’ emotions

One of the organisations to support bringing Reynolds over from the US was VetPartners. Bill May from LLM farm vets, part of VetPartners, who attended the event, gave an insight into why they had aligned with Jim, and his thoughts on what was said.

“Conversations around health and welfare are important to ensure that we keep striving for improvements, and bringing in an international expert allows us to explore a familiar topic with new perspectives. “It was great to hear Reynolds sharing his thoughts, as he kept it simple by reminding us that welfare is about animals’ emotions and doing things on-farm that make them happy – like providing enjoyable and nutritious food, careful handling and overall treating them with respect.” During his UK tour Reynolds spoke about farm animal welfare at farms, vet practices, discussion forums and other key industry events across the country.