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Doctoral thesis2020Open access

Tropical paradise: Is it for cows? Animal welfare of cattle raised under tropical conditions

Hernández, Adalinda


Consumers in developing countries in the tropics are becoming more aware of farm animal welfare issues. Assessment protocols and changes to old harmful practices have become essential for the survival of small enterprises, which are the sole livelihood for many people living in poverty. This thesis investigated general animal welfare in cattle raised under tropical conditions and sought to identify areas in need of improvement. Welfare Quality® protocols were applied to assess 34 dual-purpose farms in Mexico and 60 farms grouped into three farming systems (intensive, semiintensive and extensive) in Costa Rica. Clear differences between the farming systems were found and some changes to the Welfare Quality® protocols were suggested to obtain more accurate assessments. In a further comparison of animal welfare in tropical cattle between the rainy and dry seasons, some differences were detected, with the rainy season representing a greater risk to animal welfare. One of the major animal welfare hazards observed was performing painful procedures without any pain relief. Thus, a study was performed in which three different protocols for pain relief were compared with a non-pain-relief control group during hot-iron branding of heifers in Brazil. Assessments of signs of pain showed that the groups did not differ significantly according to most pain indicators, but some variables indicated inadequate animal welfare in the control group. In general, the results obtained in this thesis demonstrate that the animal welfare status of cattle raised under tropical conditions can be very variable. Broadly, the Welfare Quality® principles of good housing and appropriate behaviour can be considered strengths in the region. However, the principles of good feeding and good health were major weaknesses for the majority of farms assessed in this thesis. The good health principle is particularly compromised by the performance of statutory painful procedures on animals without the use of pain relief. 


Animal welfare; assessment; cattle; tropics; family farming; extensive farming

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2020, number: 2020:51ISBN: 978-91-7760-620-8, eISBN: 978-91-7760-621-5
Publisher: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Environment and Health

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Animal and Dairy Science

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