Cow Comfort

  • Fact sheets for farmers: Lameness, Body Condition Score, Injury and Footbaths
    • Lameness - PDF
    • Body Condition Score - PDF
    • Injury - PDF
    • Footbaths - PDF
  • Cow comfort on dairy farms across Canada
    • Summary:

      A team of Canadian researchers and their students visited 240 farms in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta between January 2013 and August 2013. They evaluated the comfort of cows from tie-stall farms, free-stall farms and farms with automatic milking systems.

    • View the PDF
  • Code of Practice
    • Summary:

      Appropriate housing conditions and good herd management are necessary for the health and well-being of dairy cattle. The Code of Practice for Dairy Animals provides guidance to owner-operators and workers who care for these animals. Animal handling is a key element of this goal. Employers are required to provide adequate training to their employees.

    • View the PDF
  • Protocols of animal outcome measures
    • Summary:

      As part of this Dairy Research Cluster project, we visited farms to assess the incidence of lameness, wounds, body condition score (CEC), and cleanliness. The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle describes best practices and requirements for animal outcome measures. At the end of our visits, we gave to the dairy farmers in which we explain to what extent the farm complies with the Code of Practice and discusses the results.

    • View the PDF
  • Appendix - Data Log Sheet - Free and Hidden Stall

  1. Introduction: What is the cow comfort tool?
  2. Questionnaire: Assessing cow management
  3. How to measure the housing environment:
  4. How to score injury, cleanliness, body condition and lameness on the farm
  5. Scoring Sheets:
  6. Cow Welfare Assessment - Explanation of Free Stall Scoring


The objective of this research project was to develop an on-farm animal comfort assessment tool that helps producers assess how well they are meeting the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals: Dairy Cattle (DFC, 2009) and that identifies management and environment modifications that could potentially improve dairy cow welfare on their farms.

The assessment tool addressed critical areas of dairy cow comfort, including accommodation and housing, feed and water, and health management. Targets of good practices were identified from the requirements and recommendations of the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle. Each farm received a score for each target, ranging from 0 (target not reached) to 100 (target reached). Two hundred and ten farms were surveyed in three provinces of Canada (Quebec, Ontario and Alberta). Data were collected on management, housing and on the animals. Standard operating procedures were developed to ensure consistency in measuring and recording data. As part of this process, periodical checks were performed by trainers to evaluate the consistency between the 15 assessors and ensure they all remained above the 85% agreement level.

An evaluation report was provided and discussed with each producer, identifying strengths and areas for improvement that could benefit dairy cow welfare on their farms. There was a large variation between farms (25 - 95%) on how well targets were reached. Over 90% of surveyed producers were convinced of the effectiveness of our tool at assessing cow welfare and helping them to make decisions for improvements.