A survey of management practices that influence production and welfare of dairy cattle on family farms in southern Brazil

J. H.C. Costa, M. J. Hötzel, C. Longo, L. F. Balcão

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70 Scopus citations


A survey on dairy production in family dairy farms in the northwest of Santa Catarina, Brazil, was carried out to assess husbandry practices and elements of the living environment that may influence animal welfare and productivity. Three farm systems common in the region were compared: extensive, pasture-based, and semi-intensive. Data were collected through face-to-face interviews with farmers, followed by an inspection of the production environment and of dairy cows on 124 dairy farms. Some welfare and production problems were common to the 3 systems, mainly subclinical mastitis and tick infestations, which affected one-third of cows, deficiencies in the provision of drinking water and shade, and poor hygiene practices during milking. Some problems were specific to farming systems, such as lameness and hock injuries on the semi-intensive farms, and inadequate milking infrastructure and greater frequencies of cows with low body condition scores on extensive and pasture-based farms. A greater proportion of farms in the semi-intensive group had modern, herringbone-type milking parlors, applied the California Mastitis Test, and followed teat disinfection practices, and more pasture-based farms provided shade in the paddocks. The widespread use of pasture and adapted genotypes and individual identification of animals were positive aspects present in all systems. The absence of health and production records in more than half of the farms may prevent farmers from recognizing certain problems. Results of this survey may guide public policies aiming to improve milk productivity and quality with sustainable and low-cost production practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-317
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Dairy Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the farmers, the local extensionists who participated in this study, and Clarissa Cardoso, Francieli Bertoli, Rolnei Ruã Dáros (Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianópolis, SC, Brazil), and Tracy Anne Burnett (visiting student from the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada). This project was funded by the MCT/CNPq/CT-Agronegócio/MAPA-SDC 40/2008, Proc. 505862/2008-5, and MEC/CAPES 029/2010, Proc. 23038.006958/2010-62. M. J. Hötzel was funded by CNPq, PQ-308919/2009-2.


  • Animal well-being
  • Farmer perception
  • Production system
  • Stockmanship

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Genetics


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