Factors associated with leg cleanliness of smallholder dairy cows in Kenya

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Peter Kimeli
Dennis Makau
John Van Leeuwen
George Gitau
Joan Muraya
Shawn McKenna
Luke Heider


welfare; cleanliness; soiled; zero-grazing; risk factors


Dairy cow cleanliness provides information about animal welfare, along with risk of diseases and quality of housing environments. This study determined animal- and farm-level factors associated with upper hind leg cleanliness in smallholder dairy cows. All lactating cows (n=234) on 118 randomly selected zero-grazing fams participated in this cross-sectional study between May to August 2015 in the Naari area of Meru County, Kenya. Cleanliness scores of hind legs were assessed visually on a 1-4 ordinal scale (clean to very soiled). Potential risk factors for poor leg cleanliness were evaluated by inspection of cows and their housing, along with a questionnaire about herd management. Descriptive statistics, and univariable and multivariable logistic regression were used to determine factors associated with soiled legs (cleanliness score>2) in the analyses. Prevalence of soiled legs was 59.0% (137/234). In the final model, factors positively associated with soiled legs included failure of the knee wetness test on the stall floor (OR=11.2; 95%CI: 5.1, 24.7), animal restlessness in the stall (OR=4.9; 95%CI: 1.8, 13.5), and milk production in kg/cow/day (OR=1.09; 95%CI: 1.02, 1.16). Protective factors for soiled legs included having stalls without excessive space (OR=0.25; 95%CI: 0.11, 0.57), and having an intact stall roof (OR=0.34; 95%CI; 0.15, 0.76). Our results suggest that farmers should address both housing design (especially the roof and stall size) and management issues (especially stall cleanliness) to enhance leg cleanliness and animal welfare.

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