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"If you were a cow, what would you want?" Findings from participatory workshops with dairy farmers

When looking to improve animal welfare, it is essential to understand the viewpoints of stakeholders in the industry. Previous research has engaged stakeholders such as farmers, veterinarians, and the public to better understand future dairy industry directions. However, the use of perspective-taking as a tool to overcome farmer's focus on current barriers to the industry has not been explored. Therefore, the aims of this study were to have farmers take the perspective of the cow, to elicit: (1) farm elements that are essential to create a cow-centric dairy system, and (2) how this system can be achieved in the next 50 years. To do this, we employed participatory methods (photo elicitation, timelining) to generate discussion with 12 New Zealand dairy farmers. Pasture access is frequently cited as an integral component for promoting good welfare in dairy cows, thus, this cohort of farmers was considered a good case study as they all had experience managing cows in grazing systems. Participants were asked to create a cow-centric farm design, and a pathway to implementation. Following thematic analysis of the multiple data sources, the results are presented under the following three themes: (1) cow-centric farm designs (environmental considerations, cow handling and care), (2) timeline to achieve and sequence of implementation ("low hanging fruit" and long-term investments), and (3) assumptions and resources needed (including financial considerations, technology, farmer buy-in, regulations and enforcement and other stakeholder involvement). By better understanding how current industry practice aligns, and also differs, from what the cow would want, we can work towards future management systems that incorporate the requirements of all stakeholders, including the cow.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Elsevier B.V.
©2023 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B. V. This is an open-access article under the CCBY-NC-ND license.