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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Dairy farmer and farm staff attitudes and perceptions regarding daily milk allowance to calves

Svensson, C.; Hegrestad, A. -L.; Lindblom, J.

Abstract

The benefits of feeding calves more milk are increasingly being recognized by dairy farmers. However, most producers have still not implemented higher feeding plans. The aim of the present study was to gain a deeper understanding of farmer and farm staff attitudes, and the perceptions and factors considered in their decision-making regarding daily milk allowances. We collected data through focus group interviews with dairy farm-ers, farm managers, and calf-care workers who were selected using purposive and snowball sampling. In total, 40 persons (24 women and 16 men) joined a focus group interview (6 in all, each with 5-8 participants). Interviews were recorded, and recordings were tran-scribed and analyzed thematically. Participants had contrasting opinions about the minimum, maximum, and recommended daily milk allowances to their calves. Their suggested lowest daily milk allowance to sustain animal welfare ranged from 4 to 8-10 L and the maxi-mum allowance from 6 to 15 L. We found that farmers' and farm staff's choices and recommendations of milk-feeding protocols were influenced by a large number of factors that could be grouped into 4 themes: (1) Life beyond work, (2) Farm facilities and equipment, (3) Care of the calves, and (4) Profitability and pro-duction. Participants' considerations were similar and aimed to maximize daily milk allowance based on farm conditions. However, the allowances they described as optimal for their calves often differed from what they considered practically feasible. We found that the care of the calves and the well-being of the owners and the staff was central in the participants' decision-making, but that this care perspective was challenged by the social and economic sustainability of the farm. Most participants fed their calves twice daily and did not think that increasing that number would be practically feasible. Our results indicate that the participants' viewpoints regarding calves were important for their decision-making about milk allowances. We suggest that a more holistic perspective should be used when advising farmers about milk allowances, putting particular emphasis on the caring and social sustainability aspects of the individual farm.

Keywords

dairy cattle; calves; milk feeding; qualitative research; farmer perceptions

Published in

Journal of Dairy Science
2023, Volume: 106, number: 10, pages: 7220-7239 Publisher: ELSEVIER SCIENCE INC

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG12 Responsible consumption and production

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Animal and Dairy Science

    Publication identifier

    DOI: https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2023-23499

    Permanent link to this page (URI)

    https://res.slu.se/id/publ/126861