Stakeholder engagement has value in welfare solutions

Increasing stakeholder engagement is important as the dairy industry seeks to address societal concerns about the welfare of farm animals.

 ncreasing stakeholder engagement is important as the dairy industry seeks to address societal concerns about the welfare of farm animals, B.A. Ventura, M.A.G. von Keyserlingk and D.M. Weary of the University of British Columbia said at JAM 2013.

The aim of their current study was to facilitate engagement among stakeholders and to describe their perspectives on key issues affecting the welfare of dairy cattle.

To this, five heterogeneous focus groups were conducted during a dairy cattle industry meeting in Guelph in October 2012. Each group contained between 7 and 10 participants and consisted of a mix of dairy producers, veterinarians, researchers, students and industry specialists. The one-hour facilitator-led discussion focused on participants’ perceptions of the key welfare issues and the role of different groups in addressing these concerns. Discussions were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim, and the resulting transcripts coded and the themes identified.

The researchers said lameness was uniformly recognized as the most important welfare issue facing dairy cattle; cow comfort, painful procedures (such as dehorning) and other production diseases (such as mastitis) were also commonly discussed.

Participants had mixed views on the roles of different stakeholders in formulating solutions. Many felt that producers and others working within the dairy industry should be primarily responsible, but some believed that members of the general public also had an important role, the researchers said.

Participants agreed that improved knowledge translation from researchers to producers and from dairy industry groups to the public was required to develop solutions to these concerns. The researchers said that these results illustrate the value of stakeholder engagement in developing solutions to dairy cattle welfare concerns.

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