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Dairy cow management systems: handling, health, and well-being




Adams, Ashley E., author
Román-Muñiz, Ivette N., advisor
Olea-Popelka, Francisco J., committee member
Woerner, Dale, committee member
Grandin, Temple, committee member

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Dairy cows are handled more regularly than other forms of livestock. Besides the daily milking routine, reasons for handling dairy cattle so frequently include routine veterinary checks, reproductive management, and vaccinations. Regardless of the reason for handling cows, a working facility that meets the needs of a particular dairy is necessary. An ideal facility allows for all aspects of cow management to be accomplished in one spot, with minimal risk of injury to either the handler or the cow, as efficiently as possible. The main objectives of this survey were: 1) to determine if there is a need for a new type of handling facility for working dairy cows, similar to that of a management rail, that would allow all injections to be administered according to Dairy Beef Quality Assurance (DBQA) standards; 2) to establish if Colorado dairy producers were concerned with DBQA; and 3) to assess the differences in responses by dairy owners and management/herd-personnel. Additionally, the survey was designed to enhance our current understanding of the Colorado dairy industry by improving knowledge on demographics, record keeping, culling decisions, synchronization programs, and cull cow marketing options. Of the 95 dairies contacted via electronic mail and telephone, 20 agreed to participate in the survey, for a response rate of 21%. The median number of cows per herd was 1177.50, with 90% of the respondents representing conventional dairy herds. The most common type of working facility was determined to be headlock stanchions, with 95% of the dairies using them as a form of restraint while handling cows. Just over half of those surveyed (55%) indicated that they would be willing to install a management rail when building a new handling facility. When asked to rank, in order of importance, 7 traits to consider when designing a new handling facility, 75% of producers ranked having the ability to administer injections as per Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) standards as last or second to last, illustrating the lack of concern for BQA protocols on Colorado dairy operations. When considering the actual drug administration practices, the majority (79%) of dairy producers stated that the preferred location for administering all intramuscular (IM) injections is in the neck, although only 20% confirmed that all IM injections are given in that area 100% of the time. The results of the survey in Chapter II demonstrate a vast difference in the ideal situation versus what is actually carried out in practice. These findings support the theory that, while producers may be aware that all IM injections should be given in the neck region, most dairy producers are not concerned enough about BQA to ensure that all injections are actually given in that location. By implementing stricter BQA protocols dairy owners could prevent the risk of discounts, potentially increasing the amount of revenue gained by the sale of these animals, ultimately increasing the percentage of income derived from cull cows. Survey results indicate a need for better DBQA practices on many Colorado dairies, and handling facilities that allow the safe and consistent administration of all medications in the neck area of dairy cows. More effective educational programs are needed in order to make the incentives tied to high quality dairy beef more apparent to dairy producers. These educational opportunities should also focus on the responsibility of providing a wholesome product to the consumer, free of lesions and drug residues. An additional study was carried out investigating associations between increases in body temperature and common production diseases of dairy cattle, which is presented in Chapter III. Body temperature monitoring is a common practice employed on dairy farms as a way of detecting disease in dairy cows. Common production disorders of dairy cows that can result in a deviation of the animal's body temperature from normal include metritis, mastitis, some causes of lameness, and pneumonia. The objective of the study was to investigate associations between increases in core body temperature in cows and the diagnosis of metritis, mastitis, lameness, and pneumonia by dairy personnel. A prospective case-control study was completed on a 2175-cow dairy operation in Colorado from May 2010 to April 2011. Each cow received an orally administered temperature sensing reticular bolus after parturition and reticular temperature measurements were recorded 3 times per day as lactating cows exited the milking parlor. A cow was identified as having an increased core body temperature when a deviation of 0.8°C above baseline (average of readings of previous 10 days) was recorded by the TempTrack® Sofware. During the same study period, dairy personnel without access to reticular temperature data, recorded health events and classified them according to clinical signs observed. A total of 201 health events (cases) were included in the data analysis. Cows with clinical mastitis and pneumonia had significantly higher odds (6.7 and 7.5 times higher, respectively) of having an increased core body temperature within 4 days preceding diagnosis when compared to control cows. No significant difference in core body temperature was found for cows diagnosed with lameness or metritis. Results of the study in Chapter III suggest that reticular temperature monitoring can be a useful tool in the early detection of mastitis and pneumonia in dairy cows.


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dairy cow
reticular temperature


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