Animal welfare is a key component to the sustained viability of our cattle industries. Providing top-quality animal care following the latest science-backed best practices just makes good sense. Ensuring good animal well-being is not only the responsible thing to do for the animals under our care, but can also translate to a better bottom line for the farm operation and help us maintain consumer confidence in the long run.
The UW-Madison Division of Extension presents an annual Dairy & Beef Well-Being Conference to support and strengthen our state’s beef and dairy cattle industries through a focus on animal well-being. This year, we are pleased to partner with the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association (WCA), who will be hosting our education program within their 2020 Winter Conference on Friday, February 21 at the Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells.
Our exciting program will present the latest scientific research on beef and dairy cattle welfare along with perspectives from industry programs serving to raise consumer confidence and from decision makers in the food supply chain. Science can play a key role in decision making and policies around animal care. Animal welfare science includes biological approaches to understand the animal’s behavior and physiology, as well as social-science techniques to understand the beliefs, attitudes, and values people have around animal welfare.
We will kick off the program with updates on the Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) and Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) Animal Care programs. These industry programs serve an important role in assuring stakeholders in the supply chain that our beef and dairy cattle industries are proactively establishing and following high standards for animal care. The updates will be presented by Chase DeCoite, Director of BQA Programs with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Emily Yeiser-Stepp, Senior Director of the National Milk Producers Federation’s Dairy FARM Program. Mr. DeCoite’s Masters research studied consumer perceptions of beef animal welfare programs, whereas Ms. Yeiser-Stepp’s Masters research evaluated impacts of mastitis and metabolic diseases on dairy cow behavior.
Beef- or dairy-focused breakout sessions will follow. In the beef track, Dr. Courtney Daigle from the Department of Animal Science at Texas A&M University will present “Exploring the behavior and management components of beef cattle welfare.” Her research develops and quantifies the impact of management practices designed to optimize beef cattle health, productivity, and welfare. Next, Mr. DeCoite will discuss “Reaching consumers with BQA.”
In the dairy track, Dr. Charlotte Winder from the University of Guelph will present “Taking the pain out of disbudding.” She conducts research to improve the health and performance of dairy cattle, including evaluating and training on disbudding practices. Then, Dr. Nigel Cook from the UW-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine will present “Corkscrew claw syndrome – a new twist on an old hoof lesion.” Dr. Cook’s research and outreach interests include preventing lameness – a key animal welfare issue, cow comfort and improving facility design.
After lunch, Dr. Henry Zerby, Vice President of Protein Procurement and Innovation with Wendy’s, will present the keynote session, “Animal protein in the global marketplace.” Previously, he was Chair of the Department of Animal Sciences at The Ohio State University, where he led research on improving food animal production and meat quality.
Afterward, Drs. Beth Ventura and Jesse Robbins, from the Department of Animal Science at the University of Minnesota and the College of Veterinary Medicine at Iowa State University, respectively, will present “Public concerns about animal welfare: What we know, why it matters, and implications for communication.” Dr. Ventura’s research seeks to understand dairy stakeholders’ priorities and concerns, with the goal of identifying policy solutions that work for both farmers and animals.
Dr. Robbins, previously the Program Director for the Washington State Dairy Federation, applies diverse scientific theories and methods to study human-animal interactions and issues around agricultural sustainability. They will discuss research using social-science techniques to understand how different stakeholders in the supply chain – from producers to consumers – think about animal welfare and what the science tells us about how to have productive conversations about expectations for animal care.
The education program will close with a panel discussion with Drs. Zerby, Ventura, and Robbins. The sessions that follow will include cattle-industry policy updates on issues concerning both beef and dairy producers, and an evening full of food and entertainment.
Registration for the Friday education program alone is $60 including lunch, with a $10 additional fee for registrations after February 14. For more information, please visit the Wisconsin Dairy and Beef Well-Being Conference website at fyi.extension.wisc.edu/animalhusbandryconference.