EFSA issues its conclusions for dairy cows and ducks

“Dairy cows, ducks, geese and quail need more space and better housing”: this is the main conclusion of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in two scientific opinions published this May 16, 2023.

Access to pasture and mastitis monitoring for dairy cows

In its opinion on dairy cows, EFSA stresses that the presence of sufficient space to move around and rest is a major factor in the well-being of these farm animals. According to the scientific evidence collected, cows permanently tethered in stalls have impaired welfare. Thus, the agency recommends that each cow has access to an interior space, including a lying area, of at least 9 square meters.

Among its other proposals, EFSA recommends:

  • Give dairy cows access to pastures with drained and shaded areas;
  • Regularly monitor lameness, mastitis and metabolic disorders;
  • The use of brushes in all free-stall systems to allow cows to engage in natural behaviors such as scratching and grooming;
  • If they are housed in cubicles, cows must have an individual space and bedding thick enough to ensure their comfort and good health.

The abandonment of the cage system for birds

EFSA has also assessed the different farming systems used in the European Union for ducks, geese and quail. Overall, she recommends the abandonment of “cage” systems. All species combined, EFSA recommends that birds have more spacious enclosures with sufficient height to allow them to jump or fly without injury but also to allow a person to inspect the animals.

The agency emphasizes the need to have:

  • Free access water to allow birds to bathe or to soak their heads;
  • Solid ground with bedding and enrichment material allowing birds to perform exploratory and foraging behavior;
  • Access to an outdoor space or, failing that, to a covered veranda.

Finally, according to Efsa, the presence of a nesting area, including the appropriate equipment, is a significant element.

Scientific advice to support future European legislation

As the European Union prepares to revise its animal welfare legislation in the second half of 2023, these new EFSA recommendations complement a series of opinions on farmed animal species commissioned by the Commission European. Since August 2022, the agency has already published assessments on the welfare of pigs, broilers and laying hens, calves and animals during transport.

Scientific advice on dairy cows, like that on ducks, geese and quail, aims to provide advice to support the decision-making of legislators. “Efsa will present its conclusions on calves, dairy cows, ducks, geese and quail at a public event on May 23, 2023”, she specifies.

Lauren Mongenier

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