A research project at the University of Calgary’s Veterinarian Medicine Program, supported by dairy stakeholders, is centering on lameness, cow comfort and animal welfare in dairy cattle.
4th year PHD student and veterinarian Laura Solano is one of the people carrying out the study, which began in 2011.
She tells Rural Roots Canada they have visited 81 dairy farms in the province making evaluations as they go.
“We basically just made evaluations on the barns, the barn design, how comfortable the beddings and the stalls are and all the cow’s environment and how does that affect them in terms of lameness and injuries: hoof injuries and so on,” says Solano.
The study is also being carried out in B.C., Ontario and Quebec.
Solano says after they finish the evaluation they show the farmer how they scored.
“We gave the farmers a report of how they scored, of how they compare to the rest of Alberta and the rest of Canada, in terms of cow comforts. So we would tell them you have this 20 per cent of lame cows on your farm, you’re doing better or worse than other farms in Alberta.”
The ultimate goal of the program is to improve animal welfare for dairy cattle.
Solano says the program has now moved into a follow-up stage and is being done by her colleague Emily Morabito.
“She’s going back to farms to evaluate the same farms we worked with to see if there has been some sort of change and how that change has impacted the farm in a negative or in a positive way.|
Morabito, who is working on her Masters at the U of C, says the project excites her.
“I’ve always loved animal welfare type studies so it will be nice to see how these changes really affect farms and benefit the cows and make things better for both the public’s perception and the farmer’s perception,” says Morbito.