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Welfare Issues in Dairy

Applied welfare issues in dairy cattle
Management procedures
– Dehorning
– Tail docking
– Weaning
– Transportation
– Hoof trimming
– Re-grouping
– Dietary changes …..
– Enteric disease
– Lesions
– Lameness
– Mastitis
– Respiratory disease …..

Effects of the welfare issues on the dairy cow

•Pain of the dairy cow
Chronic pain
Acute pain
•Physiological stress

Today many of the techniques utilized on factory
farms were developed to make production more
However, these practices often cause discomfort,
pain, and stress to animals

Welfare Issues in Dairy
while inhibiting their natural, instinctual behaviors.
Though industrial production practices may help
“mechanize” the animals by decreasing
interference with production, they ultimately create
health problems in both animals and humans.

Induced calving
Calving Induction
• Intramuscular injection
• After stage of pregnancy confirmed
• By a veterinarian
• Mimics the calf’s ‘time to be born’ signal
• Initiates calving process (~ 2 weeks later)

Welfare Issues in Dairy
allowing the cow to re-enter the ‘milking’ herd at an earlier
More likely to get in calf subsequently
More likely to stay in the herd

The welfare of the mother cow is often compromised (particularly
if greater than 3 weeks of expected gestation) as the procedure
increases ….
Dystokia (Assisted calving)
Retained placenta (“RFM”)
Photosensitisation (“photo”)
Increased susceptibility to illness/death
may be weak,
requiring special care and attention.
A veterinarian rarely attends the birth to monitor the health of cow
and calf.

Assisted Calving

Calves are…
 Less mature
 Less coordinated

Retained Placenta

More common after induction
Welfare issues
– Health issues
– Subsequent
Reproductive performance

• More common in induced cows
abnormal skin reactions in animals when exposed to direct sunlight
are due to the accumulation of photosensitive compounds beneath
the skin

Illness or Death

Decreased immunity
Increased susceptibility to

Welfare issues: Calf
Induced Calves are premature:
Born alive but of reduced robustness
Born alive but not viable
Born dead

Cruel separation
Mother cows, like most mammals have a strong
maternal bond
Calves are taken from their mothers within 12-24
hours of birth.
When calves are removed mother cows will
frantically bellow for the offspring that they will
never see again.
Separated calves appear frightened and
This separation causes enormous stress for both
the cow and calf.
New mothers are returned to the milking herd to
maximize profits. The milk that nature destined
for the calf is then processed for human

The Fate of the Calf

The fate of the calf
Around 1 million unwanted dairy calves, not wanted for herd
replacement, are slaughtered each year as ‘waste-products’ of the dairy
industry —usually at around the tender age of 5- 6 days old.
Dairy calves are not valued as they don’t grow at the same rate as beef
calves and their meat quality is considered sub-standard by the beef
As soon as calves reach their fifth day of life (after separation from their
mothers they are fed a milk substitute) the calves are transported to
abattoirs and sale yards.
Calves are subjected to the stresses of unfamiliar sights and sounds and
multiple and often rough handling as they are transported to calf scales,
sale yards and slaughterhouses.

The strain of producing
enormous amounts of milk
The natural lifespan of a cow is up to 20
years, yet few cows live beyond the age
of seven years, and many younger
animals go to slaughter.
Selective breeding, and more recently
genetic manipulation, has resulted in the
selection and production of cows which
produce enormous amounts of milk. The
modern dairy cow can produce about
35-50 liters of milk per day—about ten
times more milk than her calf would need

Producing large quantities of milk puts a significant metabolic strain
on the animal. The great weight of the udders often causes painful
stretching or tearing of ligaments and frequently causes foot
problems, such as laminitis. These foot problems can be associated
with significant pain. Dairy cattle are also susceptible to infections of
the teat and udder (mastitis) - this can be very painful.

Machine Milking
The milking machine itself may render the cow
more susceptible to infection.
The front teats may be subjected to vacuum
pulsing for up to two minutes after the quarter
has been emptied and while the hind teats are
still yielding.
This is believed to be painful for the cow, and
may also weaken tissue.
The nature of the vacuum milking process is
known to increase the possibility of infection.

Tail Docking

The docking of cows' tails
Tail docking involves removing up to two-thirds of
the tail
Generally at 12-18 months of age
– Tight rubber ring
– Sharp knife
– Heated docking iron

Beliefs about benefits of tail docking
 Comfort of the milker
 Results in quicker milking
 Reduces obstruction of the udder
 Reduces risk of leptospirosis
 Reduces risk of mastitis
 Improved milk quality
 Cleaner udders
 Reduces fly numbers

Effects of tail docking on cow welfare

Acute pain of procedure
– No anesthetics are used
– Rubber rings may be less painful than a sharp knife
Chronic pain after procedure
– Inflammation and lesions
– Neuromas causing chronic pain
Reduced ability to get rid of flies
– Increase in other fly avoidance behavior
– Higher fly counts on hind quarters

Lameness of the Cow

Lameness in dairy cows
Causes of lameness
 Wet weather
 Walking long distances
 Standing on concrete
 Nutrition, high energy rations
 Conformation defects
The incidence of lameness varies with
season and between years, more
pronounced during wet weather

Importance of early detection of lameness
 Pain caused by lameness affects welfare of the cow
 Increase in laying down
 Reduced feed intake, weight loss
 Reduced milk production, up to 10% for each lame cow
 Reduced fertility, interval calving to conception up to
40 days longer in lame cows
Lameness affects
 Stress response
 Milking order
 Return to pasture
 Grazing time
 Lying down

Mastitis is an inflammatory reaction of udder tissue
– Bacterial infection (Streptococcus uberis)
– Physical injury
Symptoms of mastitis
Inflammation of the udder, resulting in swelling, heat, redness and pain
Changes in composition and appearance of milk
Reduced milk yield
Effect of mastitis on cow welfare
 Very painful, even in mild cases
 Hyperalgesia, increase respiratory
and heart rate,
elevated temperature,
altered stance
 Analgesics should be considered



Dehorning of cows, disbudding of calves
Heifer (female) calves being raised to enter the milking herd will usually
undergo ‘disbudding’ at an early age (less than 6 months of age).
This is usually done by
applying heat cauterization to the horn buds, or
by using a knife or scoop tool to remove all the horn growth
tissues in the horn bud.
Currently this painful procedure is done without analgesia or sedation
Older dairy cattle may be ‘dehorned’—a painful and distressing
procedure that also carries a higher risk of infection and even blowfly
infestation in some regions.
The Code of Practice recommends dehorning without analgesia should
not occur in cattle over 6 months of age—but this routinely occurs
Researchers have shown that dehorning adult cattle has ‘severe
adverse effects on welfare’. Pain relief is not routinely used because it
would add to costs and time to conduct the procedure.



Downer Cows
A downer cow is a live cow that cannot walk. This
state can be caused by disease or injury. In nearly all
cases it is considered by most farmers to be both
humane and cost-effective to slaughter the animal
when it becomes a downer, rather than keeping it
alive and unhealthy. A "splitter" cow is a live beef or
dairy animal that the hindquarters have done the
complete splits and looks spraddle legged upon initial
viewing. The cattle that go down that are able to still
sit somewhat up on their briskets have a better
chance of recovery than the cattle that are laid out on
their side. Recovery is a study in patience.
There are many possible reasons for a cow staying
down, including:
Nerve Damage
Pelvic Fracture
Long bone fracture
Neurological disease

Branding (“hot” and “cold”):
In hot or “fire” branding an iron is used to burn a
mark onto the body of an animal for
identification purposes.
In cold or “freeze” branding liquid nitrogen is
used to alter the growth of hair in the brand
Both forms, which are typically performed on
cattle, especially in western states where cattle
graze on the range, are known to cause pain
and distress in animals.

Reasons for Failure to Provide Pain Relief.

Attitudes towards pain in animals;
Failure to recognize pain;
Failure to recognize the importance of the adverse effects of pain;
Concern about removing possible protective effects of pain [this
concern is generally excessive];
Concern that providing pain relief may itself stress the animal and
have a negative impact on it;
Concern that treating pain may interfere with diagnosis;
Lack of information about analgesics;
Concern about toxicity and side-effects of analgesics;
Concerns about the safety and legislative controls associated with
some analgesics such as opiates;
Economic and practical considerations

Hoof Trimming
The quality of floors, in terms of shape, hardness,
friction and hygiene is of great importance for the
health of cow feet and legs.
Large groups that spend a long time in a waiting
area, more frequent milking, long feeding time and
long walking distances on concrete floors can be
contributing factors for excessive wear and
overburdening of the hooves.
All walking surfaces should be slip-resistant. This
reduces injuries and increases mobility to feed, water
and resting areas.
It also encourages oestrus activity. If you notice cows
walking very slowly or timidly with rear feet spread
wide, it could be a sign of poor traction.

Housing systems

Housing system
• The dairy industry housing system for dairy cattle ranging
from highly extensive,
• Very traditional pasture system or tie-stall housing to
free-stall housing.
• Positive and negative features are relevant to welfare with
all systems,but some seem more problematic than others.
• Many dairy cattle are kept in dry-lot conditions,in outdoor dirt
pens in groups.
• The cow can express her social nature and can exercise.
• The problems with dry lots are similar to problems with feed
lots, lack of shade, lack of shelter, from wind and snow, poor
drainage and general lack of protection from climatic


Some Farmers do provide shade and cooling with sprinklers.
Cattle withstand cold stress better than heat stress.
Free stalls have gained in popularity.
The cows can be in their own bedded stalls and move freely
into concrete or earth yards where they receive food and
Poor flooring in these systems can lead to foot and leg
Given a choice, dairy cattle prefer other flooring over
Flooring that reduces slippage and injury and into more
effective sanitizing systems for waste removal.
Poor hygiene in the stalls can also cause mastitis and is an
issue that should be addressed.

• To allow for grazing on pasture ,they will spend eight to ten
hours a day doing.
• The grazing season is limited.
• Pasture may not supply the consistent quality and quantity of
nutrients required by high-producing cow.
• Other problems include shade,heat,water, insects ,blot and
energy wasted in movement.
• Many farmers believe that cattle prefer pasture to other
• Housing and management systems that respect the cow’s
physical and behavioral nature.
• While encouraging productivity and health needs to be carried
out for the dairy industry.

The Human Environment
• Cattle are creatures of habit ,
and disruption of habits can be
highly stressful.
• Introduction into a new
environment is more stressful for
cattle than electric shock.
• Good stockman respect this
aspect of cow handling.
• A good livestock manager can
detect deviations from habitual
behavior that indicate
environmental,feeding or
disease problems.
• Cow handling and facilities
design based on knowledge of
cow behavior is also warranted.

•To develop animal- friendly handling systems.
Ex:- She has shown that solid-sided chutes work better
than open-sided ones, that uniform illumination (rather than
patterns of light, shadow and darkness) prevents balking,
and that floor surface affects ease of movement ,yet many
farmers not incorporated these insights into their facilities.

Thank you !

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