UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Promoting farmer and veterinarian cooperation to improve dairy calf welfare Sumner, Christine L


Over the last decades, increasing scrutiny by the public related to farm animal welfare has placed pressure on farmers and veterinarians to adopt practices that lead to improvements in farm animal care. Despite these growing demands from the public, and a growing body of knowledge on what farm animals need and want, challenges remain regarding how to motivate farmers and veterinarians to adopt management changes to improve animal welfare. Dairy calves, in particular, face many welfare challenges in the early stages of life. Considering that the farmer is directly responsible for calf care on dairy farms and the veterinarian is a trusted advisor, this thesis explores how farmers and veterinarians cooperate to improve calf welfare. Chapter 1 introduces key concepts such as animal welfare, motivating factors for behavioral change, and the context for the Canadian dairy cattle industry. Chapter 2 reviews current literature on dairy farmer and veterinarian perspectives on cattle welfare and suggests that increased cooperation between these stakeholders could lead to improvements in welfare by identifying shared values for improving welfare, promoting their different perspectives as complementary, and improving communication. To examine this proposition, Chapter 3 reports on a focus group study that explores how veterinarian concerns and actions related to calf welfare correspond to their professional and personal obligations to improve it. Chapters 4 and 5 report on an interview study with dairy farmers that participated in a benchmark study on calf immune system status and growth. Chapter 4 describes how access to information and peer comparison in the form of benchmark reports motivated farmers to improve calf management. Chapter 5 describes how including the veterinarian in the benchmarking process influenced the ways that farmers viewed their veterinarian as an advisor for calf management. Chapter 6 concludes the thesis with a summary of strengths and limitations of this dissertation and recommendations such as creating interventions to improve calf welfare that complement the current management systems and leverage existing relationships between farmers and veterinarians. 

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International