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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Management of vulnerable dairy cows Stojkov, Jane

Abstract

Dairy farmers, scientists and critics have raised concerns over the current management of non-ambulatory and cull dairy cows at the farm and after they enter the marketing system. Inadequate management of non-ambulatory cows is indicated by low recovery rate and insufficient nursing care provided to these animals. Similarly, the large number of compromised cull dairy cows observed at livestock markets and abattoirs indicates poor on-farm culling decisions and/or a prolonged marketing process that significantly reduces animal welfare. The goals of this thesis were to quantify factors that may increase recovery of non-ambulatory cows, to describe the diverse management of cull dairy cows in Canada particularly the movement of cull dairy cows in British Columbia, and to quantify changes in the cows’ condition when moved from the farm to an abattoir. In Chapter 1, I describe the culling process as part of herd management and underline the most common culling reasons and their effects on animal welfare. In Chapter 2 I quantified factors that could improve recovery of cows subjected to flotation therapy, and found that shorter recumbency duration and provision of good nursing care can improve recovery. To describe the diverse management of cull dairy cows in Canada I used input from a meeting that involved a diverse group of experts from different regions of the country; this also resulted in 9 recommendations to guide future research and policy (Chapter 3). In Chapter 4, I evaluated the condition of cull dairy cows sold at livestock markets and found that 30% of the cows were compromised, and that compromised cows were more often observed during months with increased milk demand, likely because of delayed culling. To evaluate changes in the condition of cull dairy cows while in the marketing system, I monitored cows from farm to slaughter. I found that most cows spent more than 3 days in the marketing system, and many lost body condition and developed an engorged or inflamed udder (Chapter 5). These findings improve our understanding how vulnerable cows are managed and will help to guide future research, policy and development of better industry practices.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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