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Timely Euthanasia in the United States Dairy Industry–Challenges and a Path Forward

By Jennifer B. Walker, I. Noa Roman-Muniz, Lily N Edwards-Callaway

Category Journal Articles

Euthanasia is a valuable management tool utilized on dairies to end the suffering of sick or debilitated cows. Euthanasia should be implemented if an animal’s pain cannot be adequately alleviated and if there is a limited chance of recovery. To be humane, euthanasia should be quick, painless, and administered by a trained individual. Despite its importance in ensuring cow well-being, the timeliness with which euthanasia decisions are made for dairy cattle is often overlooked or neglected. The timeliness of euthanasia is as important as the efficient, rapid administration of euthanasia itself. Timely euthanasia is a critical component of many on-farm animal care and verification programs yet opportunities exist within the industry to improve how effectively the industry is executing this critical component of cow management. There are challenges associated with performing euthanasia in a timely manner, such as inconsistencies in treatment protocols, inadequate employee training, difficulties assessing a cow’s quality of life, and impacts of the human–animal bond on decision-making. The objective of this paper is to explain the importance of timely euthanasia to dairy cattle welfare, identify the challenges that can prevent the timeliness of euthanasia, and provide solutions and practical suggestions for improving the management of timely euthanasia on dairies.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2020
Publication Title Animals
Volume 10
Issue 1
Pages 17
Publisher MDPI
DOI 10.3390/ani10010071
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Animal welfare
  3. Cattle
  4. Dairy animals
  5. Euthanasia
  6. Food animals
  7. Human-animal bond
  8. open access
  9. United States of America
  1. open access