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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

Culling reasons and risk factors in Estonian dairy cows

Rilanto, Triin; Reimus, Kaari; Orro, Toomas; Emanuelson, Ulf; Viltrop, Arvo; Motus, Kerli


Background Culling is a major cost for dairy farms but also an essential part in managing herd productivity. This study aimed to identify the culling rates of Estonian dairy cows, identify the farmers' stated reasons and risk factors for culling. This observational study used registry data of all cows from herds with >= 20 cow-years in 2013-2015. Cow lactation-level analyses included data of 86,373 primiparous cows from 409 herds and 177,561 lactations of 109,295 multiparous cows from 410 herds. Weibull proportional hazard regression models were used to identify risk factors for culling due to slaughter or death. Results The overall culling rate of Estonian dairy cows was 26.24 (95% CI 26.02; 26.46) per 100 cow-years. The most common reasons farmers stated for culling were feet/claw disorders (26.4%), udder disorders (22.6%), metabolic and digestive disorders (18.1%) and fertility problems (12.5%). Animal-level risk factors for culling were Holstein breed, older parity, lower milk yield breeding value, older age at first calving, longer previous calving interval, having assisted calving, stillbirth and birth of twins/triplets. Lower milk yield, somatic cell count over 200,000 cells/ml and fat/protein ratio over 1.5 at first test-milking after calving were associated with greater culling hazard during the lactation. Cows from larger herds, herds with decreasing size and higher milk yields had a higher culling probability. Conclusions This study emphasises the need for improved management of hoof health and prevention of mastitis and metabolic diseases. It is essential to ensure easy calving and good health of cows around calving in order to lower the culling hazard.


Dairy cow; Estonia; Culling; Slaughter

Published in

BMC Veterinary Research
2020, volume: 16, number: 1, article number: 173
Publisher: BMC

Authors' information

Rilanto, Triin
Estonian Univ Life Sci
Reimus, Kaari
Estonian Univ Life Sci
Motus, Kerli
Estonian Univ Life Sci
Orro, Toomas
Estonian Univ Life Sci
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Clinical Sciences
Viltrop, Arvo
Estonian Univ Life Sci
Motus, Kerli
Estonian Univ Life Sci

UKÄ Subject classification

Animal and Dairy Science

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