Openbare verdediging doctoraat Sophie de Graaf

Titel van het doctoraat: Assessment, market potential and margins of improved dairy cattle welfare
De verdediging vindt plaats op 17 februari 2017 om 15u00 in vergaderzaal 3.1, Edgar Blancquaert, Het Pand, Onderbergen 1, 9000 Gent

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Abstract van het doctoraat

This doctoral dissertation contains a multidisciplinary approach exploring the possible introduction of a Welfare Assurance Scheme (WAS) for dairy cattle in Flanders, Belgium, with added value for the animals, consumers and farmers. Research questions relate to 1) credible, implementable and cost-efficient welfare assessment, and to the existence of 2) a consumer market for animal-friendly milk and 3) a positive relationship between animal welfare and farm performance. Results show that the integrated herd welfare scores from an existing welfare assessment protocol (the Welfare Quality® protocol) do not match well with the opinions of trained users of this protocol. Therefore, an alternative dairy herd welfare assessment protocol is developed, which is transparent, simple, multidimensional, discriminative, and corresponds with expert opinion. A highly heterogeneous consumer market for animal-friendly milk was identified in Flanders, for which product differentiation is a promising strategy. Dairy cattle health, access to pasture and perceived advantages of such milk are promising selling propositions. For a sample of 41 dairy farms in Flanders, we found no clear link between farm performance and animal welfare, meaning that efforts on one criterion not necessarily jeopardize the other. Besides, farmers may experience added value of a WAS from an improved level of animal welfare and access to a differentiated market. The main conclusion is that the introduction of a WAS in Flanders is possible, but that the implementation strategy is vital to achieve a balance between credibility, feasibility and costs.