A cattle welfare index was estimated through 14 visual indicators in the cow-calf system in northern Mexico. The study was carried out at 25 ranches in Chihuahua, Mexico. The indicators were rangeland forage availability; rangeland plant diversity; ease of walking owing to terrain slope; ease of walking owing to presence of rocks; water availability; water distribution; water distance; water appearance; heat protection through vegetation; cold protection through vegetation; cold protection through topography; cold protection through management; cattle docility and cattle body condition. A score of 1 to 4 was given to each indicator, rated as poor, fair, good and excellent, respectively. Ranches under study were classified according to their dominant vegetation type. Noticeable differences were obtained among animal welfare indexes, depending on rangeland type. The lowest index of 2.82 was recorded for the desert shrublands, while indexes above 3.0 were observed for the shortgrass prairie and oak-bunchgrass rangelands. Indicators with high values were water availability and distribution. The lower cattle welfare scores were related to natural factors rather than to management indicators.