Vista Alegre Baserria Feeding cows 3.1- The relationship between dairy cow feeding regimes and animal health and welfare:
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3.1- The relationship between dairy cow feeding regimes and animal health and welfare: PDF Print E-mail

There is a growing body of research into the impact of different livestock feeding regimes on animal health and welfare. The main result of such research is that the more intensive an animal feeding regime is, particularly the more concentrate it includes to the detriment of forage content, the more health problems a cow will suffer. This is closely related to the fact that cows are ruminants and ruminating itself is important to maintain healthy cows: health problems arise when cows do not ruminate. Cows ruminate correctly when fodder contain certain levels of fibre, levels found in forage. If, to the contrary, cows consume large quantities of concentrate they do not ingest sufficient fibre and, thus, do not ruminate, their natural defence systems do not work correctly and they fall ill (there are also consequences for milk quality, see below). Examples of the sort of health problems that arise include ketosis (a problem that arises due to a deficiency in carbohydrates), stomach cramps, problems with cows’ hooves, metabolic acidosis (an increase in the amount of acids due to a loss of bicarbonates in liquids), alteration of the ovulation cycle and thus difficulties for a cow to come on heat or become pregnant.

Additionally, grazing cows can move more freely and are thus generally healthier than permanently stabled livestock. Permanent stabling increases leg and hoof problems, stress and the risk of infectious disease. There is also a lower rate of mastitis amongst cows that graze.



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