A study of three methods used to assess stockmanship on commercial dairy farms: Can these become effective welfare assessment techniques?

LJ Rennie*, VA Bowell, JM Dearing, MJ Haskell, AB Lawrence

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The modern dairy industry, involves close contact between the stockperson and their animals and thus complex relationships develop between stockperson and cow. This study examines the assessment of stockmanship quality on commercial dairy farms and aims to develop useable protocols for on-farm assessment of stockmanship for inclusion in a quality-assurance scheme. In this study the behaviour of cows was used to assess the quality of stockmanship on fifteen commercial dairy farms, which varied in level of production and intensification. The behavioural reactions of cows to a novel human and the behaviour of the stock-person before, during and after milking were scored, and stockpersons completed a fifty-question psychometric attitude questionnaire, which was made lip of seven subgroups of questions. Preliminary results indicated that stockpersons differ in the behaviour they use when handling cows. Stockpersons on zero-grazing farms appeared to use fewer positive tactile behaviours and more severe negative behaviour. The behavioural responses of cows in a novel human approach test differed between farm types. Cows on straw-court farms appeared to be more flighty and less confident in the presence of a novel human. Differences were observed in mean attitude scores for the seven subgroups of questions. Job type appears to have all effect on the extent of the stockpersons positive attitude toward cows, animals in general, job satisfaction and farm economics. The results indicate that there are differences in quality of stockmanship between farms and that the three methods chosen do identify; these. They show, that the human-animal relationship is a potential source of fear,for cows in dairy production and therefore call be used to identify poor stockmanship.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-597
Number of pages7
JournalAnimal Welfare Journal
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2003
Event2nd International Workshop on the Assessment of Animal Welfare at Farm and Group Level - BRISTOL, United Kingdom
Duration: 4 Sep 20026 Sep 2002


  • animal welfare
  • dairy cow
  • fear
  • human-animal interaction
  • on-farm assessment
  • stockmanship
  • COWS
  • PIGS


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