It is not feasible to transfer animal welfare assessment protocols developed for intensive systems to extensive systems or from rangeland- to pasture-based cattle because each system needs a different protocol. In a previous study, we combined selected measures from the Welfare Quality protocol for beef cattle and the UC Davis Cow-Calf Health and Handling protocol with additional measures specific to New Zealand to create a welfare assessment protocol for pasture-based cow–calf systems that had 50 measures. In this study, the feasibility of this protocol was assessed during routine yardings of cows and a questionnaire. Individual measures that were deemed unsuitable were eliminated or modified. At the end of the process, a robust, achievable protocol with 32 measures for use on pasture-based extensive cow–calf farms was created.
Potential measures suitable for assessing welfare in pasture-based beef cow–calf systems in New Zealand were identified from Welfare Quality and UC Davis Cow-Calf protocols. These were trialled on a single farm and a potential protocol of 50 measures created. The aim of this study was to assess the feasibility of the measures included in this protocol on multiple farms in order, to develop a credible animal welfare assessment protocol for pasture-based cow–calf farms systems in New Zealand. The assessment protocol was trialled on 25 farms over two visits and took a total of 2.5 h over both visits for a 100-cow herd. The first visit in autumn included an animal welfare assessment of 3366 cows during pregnancy scanning, while the second visit in winter included a questionnaire-guided interview to assess cattle management and health, and a farm resource evaluation. Through a process of eliminating unsuitable measures, adjustments of modifiable measures and retaining feasible measures, a protocol with 32 measures was created. The application of the protocol on the farms showed that not all measures are feasible for on-farm assessment, and categorisation of identified animal welfare measures into scores that indicate a threshold of acceptable and non-acceptable welfare standards is necessary.