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Research article2014Peer reviewedOpen access

Associations between calf mortality during days 1 to 90 and herd-level cow and production variables in large Swedish dairy herds

Torsein M, Jansson-Mork M, Lindberg A, Hallen-Sandgren C, Berg C


The aim of the study was to describe large Swedish dairy herds with high and low mortality risk in calves during the first 90 d of life, using herd-level data, and to evaluate if high calf mortality risk is associated with other herd-level management variables that influence cow health. A total of 57 Swedish dairy herds met the inclusion criteria of affiliation to the Swedish official milk recording scheme, herd size of >= 140 and >= 160 cows in 2008/2009 and 2009/2010, and calf mortality risks, classified as high (HM; calf mortality risk at least 3.5% in 2008/2009 and 5.5% in 2009/2010; n = 28) or low (LM; calf mortality risk less than <1.5% in 2008/2009 and 2009/2010; n = 29), and were thus included in the study. The data used in this study were collected from the Swedish Dairy association during the milking year 2009/2010. For LM herds, the calf mortality risk ranged from 0 to 1.46 (median = 0.66) in 2008/2009 and from 0 to 1.48 (median = 0.67) in 2009/2010. For HM herds, the calf mortality risk ranged from 3.57 to 11.52 (median = 6.15) in 2008/2009 and from 5.88 to 18.23 (median = 8.39) in 2009/2010. Median age at death was 28 d for HM and 37 d for LM herds. Associations between type of herd (HM or LM) and the production variables were evaluated using multi-correspondence analysis and logistic regression models covering the areas "mortality and culling," "health," "herd/production variables," and "fertility." Herds with HM risks during d 1 to 90 were associated with higher on-farm mortality rate in cows, lower average milk yield, higher incidence of antibiotic treatment, and a higher proportion of purchased animals. These results indicate that herds with HM risk during d 1 to 90 have coexisting issues concerning cow management and health. Future research is needed to evaluate if identifying HM herds and working with advisory and preventive manners at these herds also can be positive for a reduction of on-farm mortality and antibiotic usage, which are important issues from a global perspective.


antibiotic; on-farm mortality; epidemiology; herd health; risk

Published in

Journal of Dairy Science
2014, Volume: 97, number: 10, pages: 6613-6621