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The objective was to conduct a broad survey of dairy management practices that have an effect on animal well-being. Dairies were visited during the fall and winter of 2005 and 2006 in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, Iowa, and New York. Data were collected on 113 dairies on colostrum feeding, dehorning, tail-docking, euthanasia methods, producer statements about welfare, use of specialized calf-raising farms (custom), level of satisfaction with calf-raising by producers, and cow behavior. Calves were raised by the owner on 50.4% of dairies; 30.1% were raised on custom farms during the milk-feeding period, 18.6% were custom raised after weaning, and 1% sold calves with the option to buy them back as first-lactation heifers. A total of 51.8% of producers were very satisfied with their current calf-raising methods. Three feedings of colostrum were fed to the calves on 23.9% of dairies, 2 feedings on 39.8% of farms, 1 feeding on 31.0% of farms, and colostrum replacement products were fed on 5.3% of farms. Many farms (61.9%) provided 3.8 L at first feeding. Calves were dehorned at different ages by various methods. By 8 wk, 34.5% of calves were dehorned. By 12 wk, 78.8% of calves were dehorned. The majority of calves were dehorned by hot iron (67.3%). The remainder were dehorned by gouging (8.8%), paste (9.7%), saw (3.5%), or unknown by calf owner (10.6%). Anesthetic use was reported by 12.4% of dairy owners and analgesia use by 1.8%. Tail-docking was observed on 82.3% of dairies. The most common reported docking time was pre- or postcalving (35.2%). The second most commonly reported time was d 1 (15.4%). Rubber band was the most common method (92.5%), followed by amputation (7.5%). Three dairies amputated precalving, 1 at 2 mo and 3 at d 1 or 2. Cow hygiene was the most common reason given to dock (73.5%), followed by parlor worker comfort (17.4%) and udder health (1.0%). Producers reported 2.0% of cows obviously lame. Gun was the preferred euthanasia method (85.7%), followed by i.v. euthanasia (8.0%), live pick-up (1.8%), and nondisclosure (3.5%). Most producers (77.9%) stated that cows were in an improved environment as compared with 20 yr ago, whereas 8.0% stated conditions were worse, and 14.2% were undecided. Dairies with higher percentages of cows that either approached or touched the observer had lower somatic cell counts. The survey results showed management practices that were important for animal welfare.


Open Archive in partnership with American Dairy Science Association (ADSA)