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Disbudding causes pain-related distress and behavioral changes in calves. Local anesthesia and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are effective for treating disbudding-related pain. Dairy producers play a key role in whether or not calves to be disbudded are properly medicated. Pain and distress related to disbudding of calves often remains untreated. Thus, we conducted this study to characterize perceptions and practices of dairy producers on disbudding and disbudding-related pain management. A questionnaire was sent to 1,000 randomly selected Finnish dairy producers (response rate: 45%). Our aim was to investigate producer perceptions about disbudding-related pain, the perceived need for pain alleviation before disbudding, and how these perceptions affect the valuing and use of pain alleviation before disbudding. More than 70% of Finnish dairy farms disbud their calves. Producers who ranked disbudding-related pain and need for pain alleviation higher called a veterinarian to medicate calves before disbudding more often than producers who ranked disbudding pain and need for pain alleviation lower. Among respondents who disbudded calves on their farms, 69% stated that disbudding caused severe pain, 63% stated that pain alleviation during disbudding is important, and 45% always had a veterinarian medicate their calves before disbudding. Producers with a herd healthcare agreement with their veterinarian estimated disbudding-related pain to be higher and had a veterinarian medicate calves more often than producers without such an agreement. Producers with tiestall systems and producers who did not use disbudding valued pain alleviation prior to disbudding higher than producers with freestalls and producers who used disbudding.


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