Researchers launch multi-province initiative to examine culling risk factors

Thanks to funding allocated by Dairy Farmers of Canada, a research project aimed at "Improving cow comfort to increase longevity" will examine risk factors that influence lameness and other disorders among dairy herds in Québec, Ontario and Alberta. Researchers from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Université Laval, Valacta, the University of Guelph, the University of BC and the University of Calgary will evaluate housing and management factors along with animal characteristics that have the potential to reduce cow longevity. Specific objectives of the project are to:

  1. Develop an evidence-based scoring system for dairy cow comfort (using measures of flooring, lying stall and feeder design and management) that can be used to assess cow comfort on-farm;
  2. Test the feasibility of using the scoring system to advise producers on commercial farms and assess the degree of dairy producer interest;
  3. Examine the extent to which this scoring system can predict outcome measures of poor cow comfort such as lameness, injury, lying times and reduced longevity;
  4. Determine whether automated measures of cow resting time can be used as an initial measure to screen farms for levels of cow comfort in different housing systems;
  5. Determine how the attitudes and beliefs of producers about their animals and the importance of cow comfort influence the use of best management practices related to cow comfort and longevity;
  6. Use this information to modify the scoring system and develop an advisory tool that can improve technology transfer to help advisors and producers improve cow comfort on farms.

In Québec and Ontario, 60 farms in each province will be enrolled in the project, representing both tie- and free-stall production systems. The Alberta phase of the project will be integrated with The Alberta Dairy Hoof Health Project (ADHHP) with the help of financial support from both Alberta Milk and the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency (ALMA). Researchers hope to enroll up to 100 of the herds currently participating in the ADHHP.

1 August 2021