A Survey of Dairy Calf Management Practices in Canada that Affect Animal Welfare

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Short Description:
Based on a series of interviews with dairy producers in Quebec, Canada, this research finds that dairy management practices that negatively affect calf welfare continue to be used in Quebec's dairy industry. Such practices include the use of calving pens, delayed calf monitoring, dehorning and removal of extra teats at late ages, restrictive milk feeding practices, and other practices as discussed in this report.

Article Abstract:

"There is growing interest among the public in farm animal welfare and a need for methods to assess animal welfare on farm. A survey on calf rearing practices that might affect dairy calf welfare was performed via a 1-h interview on 115 dairy farms (mean +/- SD: herd size=52.5+/-20.9 cows; milk production=8,697+/-1,153L) distributed throughout the province of Quebec. Despite frequent recommendations, many dairy producers continue to use management practices that increase the health risks of milk-fed calves. Major risk factors for poor calf welfare identified were 1) no use of calving pen in 51.3% of herds and low level of surveillance of calvings, especially at nighttime (once every 12h), 2) no disinfection of newborn's navel in 36.8% of herds, and delayed identification and, hence, calf monitoring (3 d), 3) 15.6% of farms relied on the dam to provide colostrum and none checked colostrum quality or passive transfer of immunity, 4) dehorning and removal of extra teats proceeded at late ages (6.4 wk and 6.7 mo, respectively) and without adequate pain control, 5) use of traditional restrictive milk feeding and waste milk distributed to unweaned calves without precaution in 48.2% of herds, 6) abrupt weaning performed in 16.5% of herds, and 7) calves housed individually in 87.9% of herds, and most inappropriate housing systems (crate=27.0%, tie-stall=13.9%, attached against a wall=5.7%) remained. This risk factor assessment was the first step in an intervention strategy to improve calf welfare on dairy farms."

Spot Check Number: 1679
Sponsor: Laval University
Researcher/Author: E. Vasseur, F. Borderas, R.I. Cue, D. Lefebvre, D. Pellerin, J. Rushen, K.M. Wade, A.M. de Passille
Animal Type: Cows
Research Method: In Person Interview/Survey
Geographic Region: International
Number of Participants: 115
Population Descriptors: Dairy Farms
Year Conducted: 2010
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