Animal welfare

Priorities and how to achieve

Small production groups

Fresh calves are housed per 2, socialization starts from day 1 postpartum. After 21 days they are housed in groups of 6. At the age of 3 months, the calves will be grouped per 60. From this age until they become culled cows, they will be kept in these groups. The social hierarchy is stable when cows are housed in groups of 60, because they are able to recognize every individual cow. This results in reduced stress levels.

Every group of 60 has the same age, this will prevent agonistic behaviors between heifers and older cows.

Fertility

Within every group there is less than 5 days variance in periparturient days (= around the time of childbirth). Intensive monitoring of the postpartum cows is done weekly and these cows will be inseminated around the third heat (60 days postpartum). We achieve this third heat by using light schedules (18 hours), physical exercise and an intensive follow up of the energy balance of the cows.

Description of the pens

A pen of 60 cows has a surface of 714m2, which corresponds with a space allowance of 12m2 per cow. The length of  the pen is 51m (0,85×60). The cows can synchronize their activities as the can all eat and rest at the same time. There are 60 cubicles provided per pen. In the HapCo.farm concept we will use waterbeds, because these provide almost the same lying comfort as sand bedding, but they are more likely to stay cold in moments of heat stress. The drinking places have a length of 11 m, so 9 cows can drink ad libitum at the same time.

Cow contact with the staff members

The maximum group size of 60 animals makes it easier for staff members to recognize every individual animal. There is limited social group stress and small differences in behavior are noticed by the person in charge of that pen. Every staff member is trained by Low-Stress Stockmanship (www.stockmanship.eu). There they learn how to handle cows without increasing stress and how to detect small differences in behavior. Those observations make a significant difference in disease and pain management. The herd management tools normally used on farms only notice and alert when the disorder is already in a higher stage.

 

Physical exercise

This topic was already discussed in ‘Animal health’. Physical exercise is a compensation for the animal welfare because there is no time spent on pasture for the cows. The combination of grazing and Total Mixed Ration will cause bacterial shifts in the ruminal flora in comparison with only Total Mixed Ration the whole year around. The choice for no grazing (negative effect on the carbon footprint caused by a lower production) is based on the Agenda 2030 vision: People-Planet-Profit. Per liter milk produced,  the carbon footprint is lower.

Choice of breeds

Holstein Friesian (a breed of cow) have the highest production capacities, but they are more sensitive to heat stress.  Jerseys have a better feed conversion rate per 100 kg of bodyweight and they are less sensitive for heat stress. In some countries local breeds have specific immunity against vector-borne diseases. The HapCo.farm concept wants to make cross-breeds depending on the local circumstances.

Monitoring of animal welfare

As we mentioned earlier, every staff member is trained in low stress stockmanship. The HapCo.farm Animal Welfare Manual describes an evaluation protocol for total labor force and staff, based on the Welfare Quality Network (http://www.welfarequality.net/en-us/home/). In the HapCo.farm Animal Welfare Manual an animal welfare manager is appointed. He or she will evaluate every labor force and staff member on a monthly basis. This evaluation will be used to give premiums to highly quotated labor forces and staff members. HapCo.farm wants to create an animal welfare spirit on the farm. Those quotations will be sent to all the stakeholders every month.