Effect of Animal Welfare Quality on the Reproductive Performance of Extensive Pasture-Based Beef Cows in New Zealand
One key area where animal welfare may relate to productivity is through reproductive performance. Welfare was assessed on 25 extensively managed pastoral New Zealand beef farms and the relationship between welfare and reproductive performance was explored. Relationships between welfare measures and key reproductive performance indicators (pregnancy rate, weaning rate, mating period and bull: cow ratio) were investigated using an exploratory Principal Components Analysis and linear regression
... inear regression model. Seven welfare measures (thinness, poor rumen fill, dirtiness, blindness, mortality, health checks of pregnant cows and yarding frequency/year) showed potential influence on reproductive performance, and lameness was retained individually as a potential measure. Mean pregnancy rates in both 2018 (PD18) and 2017 (PD17) were ~91% and mean weaning rate was 84%. Of the welfare measures, only lameness had a direct association with pregnancy rate, as well as confounding effect on the association between mating period and pregnancy rate. The bull: cow ration (mean 1:31) and reproductive conditions (dystocia, abortion, vaginal prolapse) did not influence pregnancy and weaning rates. In the study population there was no clear association between welfare and reproductive performance, except for the confounding effects of lameness.