Abstract #W3

# W3
Assessing cow-calf welfare.
Gabrielle E. Simon*1, Bruce R. Hoar2, Cassandra B. Tucker1, 1University of California, Davis, Davis, CA, 2University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY.

Certification programs are one way beef producers can assess and communicate information about animal welfare to the public. Programs have been created to monitor cattle all the way through production (e.g., Global Animal Partnership) or at individual stages (e.g., slaughter; American Meat Institute), but to date, there is no certification program addressing welfare specifically at the cow-calf level. The objectives of this study were to gather animal-based prevalence information, describe management practices and facility characteristics, and identify welfare risk factors on cow-calf operations. A welfare assessment was designed using features of similar programs in the beef and dairy industries and was applied to 25 California ranches that varied in herd size (mean ± SD, range: 669 ± 751, 28 – 2450 cows), specialization (i.e., commercial, purebred, grass-finished), and geographic location. Cow health and behavior and stockperson handling measures were collected during a chute-side procedure, management practices were evaluated through an interview-guided questionnaire, and facility characteristics were recorded at the chute and water access points. Cattle health problems were rare and only seen on specific ranches (e.g., prevalence of lame cattle: 1.5 ± 1.6, 0 – 7.1%). Conversely, cattle behavior and stockperson handling varied between ranches (e.g., cattle balking prevalence: 16.5 ± 16.2, 1.6 – 71.4%, electric prod use: 21.5 ± 21.1, 0 – 73.0%). Although some management characteristics were shared by all (e.g., all producers reported having a veterinary/client/patient relationship), a variety of practices were reported (e.g., weaning age: 8.1 ± 1.5, 6 - 11 mo). Likewise, some facility features were common (e.g., 20 curved head gate stanchions vs. 4 straight) and other aspects varied (e.g., 14 restraints without louvers vs. 10 with louvers). A risk factor evaluation will identify which inputs (i.e., stockperson handling, management practices, facility design) influence welfare on cow-calf operations.

Key Words: welfare assessment, cow-calf, risk factor