Farm Size and Animal Welfare - UBC Dairy Centre Report (2017)

November 2017

Concerns about farm animal welfare often revolve around the issue of farm size. Critics suggest that animals on larger farms are less likely to receive individual attention, and that the shift to larger farms results in a decline in standards of care and ultimately a lower quality of life for these animals.

For those that ascribe to this view the news is bad. Farm size shows every indication of continuing to grow as the number of dairy farms declines (Fig 1). In terms of animal welfare, concerns appear to fall into three broad categories: 1) that the technologies inherent to large farms are detrimental to the animals, 2) that due to dilution of worker effort over a larger number of animals, the standard of care provided to individuals animals will decline, and 3) that some practices perceived to be beneficial, like access to the outdoors, may become impractical once farms reach a certain size. In the sections that follow we review evidence relating to all three concerns.

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