It’s the time of Spring Cow Turnout. A joyous occasion not just for the cows but everyone lucky enough to witness it. It puts a smile on your face, especially as we struggle through our own lockdown. We are all looking forward to our own turnout, to be able to gather outdoors with six people will be such a treat and improve my wellbeing no end.
Now a study has found that dairy cows can also be hurt by ‘livestock lockdown’ as new research indicates that dairy cows with no access to outside pasture may have damaged emotional wellbeing.
Dr Gareth Arnott, senior lecturer in animal behaviour and welfare at Queen’s and principal investigator on the research, said animal welfare scientists and dairy consumers have long been concerned that depriving dairy cattle of pasture access harms their welfare.
Intensive Dairy Farming
Although the UK is not in the same league as the USA and other countries for embracing intensive dairy farming, it was one of the main reasons we set up Free Range Dairy Network. We were concerned with the rise in intensive dairy farming in the UK and how people who didn’t want to support that farming system were unable to tell where their milk had come from.
The research, which has been published in the nature journal Scientific Reports, sets out that while the last year has shown the psychological damage that lockdown can have on human’s wellbeing, “livestock lockdown”, meaning a lack of access to outside pasture, may also damage emotional wellbeing in dairy cows.
They looked at how in humans, negative moods are linked to pessimistic judgments and depression, with anxiety sufferers tending to expect fewer positive outcomes in life. In contrast to this, happy emotions and moods are linked to more optimistic judgments.
“Pasture access can promote natural behaviour [and] improve cows’ health, and cows, given the choice, spend most of their time outside. However, the effects of pasture access on dairy cows’ psychological wellbeing have been poorly understood – that is what our judgment bias study intended to measure,” he said.
Andrew Crump, a postdoctoral researcher from the school of biological sciences at Queen’s and lead author of the research paper, said “our results indicate that pasture is a more rewarding environment for dairy cows, which may induce more positive emotional wellbeing than full-time housing”.
“We hope that our research encourages farmers, retailers, government and consumers that pasture access is important for cow welfare and should be protected. In countries where full-time housing is common, we hope that ours and other welfare studies challenge this trend.”
We couldn’t agree more with the research. We see how happy cows are to be out on pasture, on turnout day,
you can see the glee and excitement on their faces. Whenever we hold events on farms we see how content they look grazing and resting in the fields.
To support us and keep cows on pasture, make sure you look for and ask for the Pasture Promise logo when buying fresh milk. We know the pandemic is seeing people tighten their belts right now, but let’s not make the cows pay the price.