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Katzenberger, Katja; Rauch, Elke; Erhard, Michael; Reese, Sven ORCID: 0000-0002-4605-9791; Gauly, Matthias (30. September 2020): Evaluating the need for an animal welfare assurance programme in South Tyrolean dairy farming. In: Italian Journal of Animal Science, Vol. 19, No. 1: pp. 1147-1157


Animal welfare assurance is of great importance as dairy farming is recently under increasing pressure to meet societal and commercial expectations. Therefore, this study aims to determine the current welfare situation of dairy cattle housed in tie-stalls and free stalls in South Tyrol (Eastern Italian Alps) in order to evaluate the need for establishment of an animal welfare assurance programme. For reasons of research economy, a protocol was used for data collection that would also be applicable for practical use in an animal welfare assurance scheme. Analyses of resource-based and animal-based indicators recorded in 204 farms in North and South Tyrol (1891 dairy cows) reveal some important animal welfare problems mainly related to the provision of resources and the prevalence of skin alterations especially in tie-stall barns, which are still widely spread in mountain areas. Hence, the implementation of an animal welfare assurance scheme is urgently needed to reflect public concerns through regular and standardised monitoring of welfare indicators and continuous encouragement of improvements in dairy cattle welfare towards predefined targets. Concerning tie-stalls, interventions in stall design as well as the selective use of local breeds best adapted to the mountainous conditions appear to be appropriate measures to optimise dairy cattle health and welfare. These findings substantiate the high value of the data that would be collected as part of the assurance programme to gain insights, which could be used in preventive and corrective health plans to improve welfare-friendliness in dairy farming of South Tyrol.