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Conference poster2015Peer reviewed

Detection of unhealthy cows and actions taken by dairy farmers - differences between high and low mortality herds

Alvåsen, Karin; Jansson Mörk, Marie; Emanuelson, Ulf


Purpose: On-farm mortality (euthanasia or unassisted death) could in many cases be prevented with better management, especially during the transition period and in early lactation, but also if unhealthy cows were identified at an early stage of disease. The objectives of this study were to evaluate potential differences in how dairy farmers in high mortality (HM) or low mortality (LM) herds: 1) ranked the importance of disease symptoms when detecting unhealthy cows; and 2) acted when unhealthy cows had been detected. Methods: A questionnaire was sent to HM and LM herds with >35 cows. HM herds had mortality rates (deaths/100 cowyears) in the highest quartile (>7.7) and LM herds in the lowest quartile (<2.7). The questions: “How do you detect unhealthy cows?” and “What is the first thing you do when you have detected an unhealthy cow?” were followed by statements such as “alterations in milk” and “contact the vet” etc. The answers were recorded on a VAS-scale. Wilcoxon ranksum tests were used to evaluate if differences between HM and LM herds were statistically significant (P<0.05). Results: There were no significant differences in how farmers with HM (n=60) or LM (n=85) herds detected or acted when they recognized unhealthy cows. In both groups, the most important factors to detect unhealthy cows were inappetence, poor general condition, fever, changed milk, swollen udder, refused milking, increased lying behaviour, diarrhoea, vaginal discharge and nasal discharge. The most common actions taken by the farmers when noticed unhealthy cows was to measure the cow’s temperature, call the vet, move to an isolation pen, add to a surveillance list and start an own treatment. It was unlikely that the farmers would just wait. Conclusion: There was no difference in how farmers in HM and LM herds stated that they detected or how they acted when they noticed unhealthy cows. Still, the HM and LM farmers’ ability to detect unhealthy cows may differ. Relevance: High onfarm cow mortality may indicate suboptimal herd health or welfare and causes financial losses. There is a need to identify herd characteristics and management routines associated with HM and LM herds so that advice for reducing mortality can be given.


epidemiology, dairy, management

Published in

Publisher: The organizing committee of ISVEE 14


International Society for Veterinary Epidemiology and Economics (ISVEE) 14