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Amy Stanton: what makes a happy cow – Audio

[audio:|titles=Amy Stanton on happy cows]

Better animal well being

Amy Stanton, Extension Animal Well Being Specialist
Department of Dairy Science
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
Phone: (608) 890-4781

3:01 – Total Time

0:15 – Animal well being defined
1:02 – What’s important to a cow
1:37 – How well being information is used
1:56 – Cows happier in Wisconsin or California
2:24 – Research priorities


Taking the best possible care of our animals. We’re visiting today with Amy Stanton, Department of Dairy Science, University of Wisconsin Extension in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, WI and I’m Sevie Kenyon.

Sevie Kenyon: Amy, tell us what animal well-being is?

Amy Stanton: Animal well-being, or animal welfare science, is basically evaluating how an animal is performing in their environment. So we take three basic principles: One is “How is the animal feeling?” Is it hungry? Is it thirsty? Is it frustrated? The other principle that we want to examine to evaluate their well-being is “How are they functioning?” Are they productive? The third one is the ability to express important behaviors. Are they able to escape if they’re in a fearful or stressful situation? So, by looking at these three factors we can evaluate if an animal is in the best possible situation for itself and how we could potentially improve it.

Sevie Kenyon: How do you determine what’s important to a cow?

Amy Stanton: One way we can do that is to force them to make a choice. We can do what’s called a “preference test” and one example of this for a cow would be if we wanted which was more important: feed or the ability to rest. We might restrict their ability to lie down and eat for a few hours and then give them an option where they must choose one or the other. What we’ve found from this sort of study is that cattle prefer to rest rather than eat and they will choose sleep over feed.

Sevie Kenyon: How might we apply this information?

Amy Stanton: So by providing this information we can alter their environment. Perhaps in the example of the feed and rest we know that we cannot have them away from their home pen for a long length of time or we’re going to compromise their feed intake and that is a big driver for milk production.

Sevie Kenyon: Our cows happier in Wisconsin than in California?

Amy Stanton: [Laugh] No comment! I think it really comes down to how we manage the animals. It doesn’t matter what size or what type of farm you have, it’s the human-animal interaction that seems to be the biggest driver. So, the farmers that are very dedicated to cow comfort, cow management, that’s where you see the really good and happy cows.

Sevie Kenyon: Can you tell us a little bit about your research priorities?

Amy Stanton: One is to try to identify when’s the optimal time to look for sick animals. And two, what are the behaviors and how can we train people who are not familiar with dairy cattle to identify sick calves. What are some of these other behaviors that we can say, “This is what a sick animal is doing,” very precisely. We can then improve disease detection and prevent disease outbreaks by finding the sick animal early to prevent the spread of disease.

Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with Amy Stanton, Department of Dairy Science, University of Wisconsin-Extension in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, WI and I’m Sevie Kenyon.