Twenty-eight buffalo calves were used to test the effects of the housing on a range of physiological and behavioral variables. Fourteen cows were confined to an open-sided, loose barn with concrete floors and an area allowance of 10 square metres per head (group IS). The barn was identical to the one that 14 cows were in, but they also had access to an outdoor yard that has 500m2 per head for space allowance, potholes to allow watering as well as natural plants (group TS). Six sessions of instantaneous scanning were carried out over 10 days. The variables that affected behaviour were portrayed as the proportion of subjects observed in each category (position and activity). The phytohaemagglutinin (PHA) was utilized for a skin test which was based on a non-specific delayed type hypersensitivity while 20 mg of ovalbumin were injected subcutaneously in order to assess the your immune system’s response to humor. Blood samples to determine cortisol concentration were collected shortly prior to the exogenous porcine ACTH injection and 1, 2 and 4 h after. The monitoring was also used to evaluate the metabolic condition and the production of milk by the animals. P0.001 showed that the proportion of animals idling in the IS group was higher than in group TS. P 0.001:0.001: More IS buffalo cattle were observed eating in the manger (P 0.01). P 0.001 More of TS animals were observed in the sunlight. Grazing and bathing activities were observed only in TS animals. Our results suggest that buffalo cows kept in intensive conditions and without access to ample yards and potholes could prolong their time of idleness with negative impacts on their well-being. The immune responses, metabolite levels and milk production did not change with treatment, however cortisol levels were greater in animals that were IS (P 0.05). The establishment of a living similar to natural conditions was able to enhance the welfare of buffalo cows as demonstrated by the display of specific natural behaviors of the species. These conditions also correlated with less adrenal cortex responses to ACTH injection, possibly due to the higher degree of initiative that is available to TS cows.
There are many tools available to assess the welfare of farms. These schemes rely on different measures; some of them (resource-based measures) are based on the environment and resources available to the animal (e.g., space allowance, housing facilities, flooring, and climatic conditions) while others (management-based measures) concern the conduction of farm operations (e.g. the breeding strategy, milking routine and health plans). But, in recent years these schemes have been shifting their focus from resource-based management measures to measures dealing with behaviors (e.g., agonistic behavior, grooming, and fear) as well as health (e.g., body condition, injuries, and udder health) and the physiology (e.g. heart rate, respiratory rate) of the animals. This shift is due to the notion that a large portion of the outcomes related to welfare that differ between farms could result from the interaction with the animals (breed, age, and temperament) and the quality of animal husbandry and housing and the attitudes of farm owners and stockers (Blokhuis and co. 2003). Additionally, animals could have different experiences in the same space. It is now accepted that animal-based indicators are direct indicators of the wellbeing of animals and permit the evaluation of differences in the design of housing and management systems. Management and resource indicators, however, can only provide indirect measures of the welfare of animals since they do not give information about how animals are coping with their surroundings (EFSA 2012).
To fill this gap, the European Commission cofinanced the 5-yr (2004-2009) Welfare Quality project (www.welfarequality.net), aimed at developing a European standard for on-farm welfare assessment and product information systems as well as practical strategies for improving animal welfare on farm. The selected species included dairy cows, fattening bulls, and calves of veal, as well as cattle as well as porks (sows and piglets sucking and fattening pigs) and chickens (laying and broilers), and pigs. The project included dairy buffaloes as well in 2007.
There is currently there is currently no Welfare Quality protocol exists for dairy buffalo. However, there are similarities between buffalo and dairy cattle production. The dairy cattle protocol was therefore utilized as a base. The Welfare Quality protocol for dairy cows includes approximately 30 indicators (Welfare Quality 2009). The measures are aggregated into 12 criteria that are organized into four principles. Then, the principles are combined into a single score to determine the level of animal welfare in a given farm (Figure 1). The protocols are mainly determined by the actions taken to take care of animals (e.g. the modification of integument and cleanliness). The monitoring system also includes measures that focus on the resource (e.g. hygiene of water points, access and pasture) as well as the management of these resources (e.g. tail docking, dehorning, standard operating procedures) because they can assist farmers in identifying welfare issues as factors and provide suggestions for improvements. Most of the animal-based measures that are part of the Welfare Quality monitoring scheme were examined in terms of their validity (meaningful in terms of animal welfare), the reliability (reflecting the likelihood to yield the same results on repeated measurements), and their feasibility (Winckler and al., 2007; Windschnurer et al., 2008; Plesch et the. in 2010).