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Risk factors for unassisted on-farm death in Swedish dairy cows

By K. Alvasen, P. T. Thomsen, C. H. Sandgren, M. J. Mork, U. Emanuelson

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Increased on-farm cow mortality (ie unassisted death and euthanasia) has been demonstrated in Swedish dairy herds during the last decade. Identifying risk factors associated with type of death is needed for future work in reducing cow mortality rates. The objectives of this case-control study were to quantify the relative proportion of unassisted dead cows among cows that die on-farm, and to identify risk factors associated with unassisted death (as opposed to euthanasia). In Sweden, cadavers and animal waste products are being processed into biofuel at destruction plants. Two destruction plants were visited three times in 2011-2012. All dairy cows (n=556) entering the plants were examined. Farmers that had sent the cows were contacted by telephone to verify type of death. Of the 433 dairy cows included in the analysis, 30% had died unassisted. A stillbirth rate above or equal to the median in the study material (7%) increased the risk for unassisted death. The proportion of unassisted dead cows was lower than that found in other countries. The results indicate that it might be possible to study euthanasia and unassisted death as one group in Swedish dairy cows, because only one factor differentiating between the two types of death was identified. However, unidentified risk factors may still differ and, possibly more importantly, welfare implications may also differ between the two types of death which implies the need to separate them in future studies.

Publication Title Animal Welfare
Volume 23
Issue 1
Pages 63-70
ISBN/ISSN 0962-7286
DOI 10.7120/09627286.23.1.063
Language English
Author Address Section of Ruminant Medicine and Epidemiology, Department of Clinical Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, PO Box 7054, SE-75007 Uppsala,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animals
  2. Animal wastes
  3. Animal welfare
  4. Bovidae
  5. Cadavers
  6. Cattle
  7. Countries
  8. Developed countries
  9. Europe
  10. Euthanasia
  11. Farms
  12. Fetus
  13. interviews
  14. Mammals
  15. Mathematics and statistics
  16. mortality
  17. objectives
  18. OECD countries
  19. peer-reviewed
  20. Plants
  21. Research
  22. risk factors
  23. Ruminants
  24. Scandinavia
  25. Sweden
  26. ungulates
  27. vertebrates
  1. peer-reviewed