Associations between udder health and culling in dairy cows

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Culling is an important management tool in dairy herds, as it affects herd economics and animal welfare. In relation to health, culling is usually studied as a consequence of health disorders, but it can also be regarded as a tool to manage health in the herd by making strategic culling decisions. In this study, we used data from the Danish Cattle Database in herd-wise survival analyses to investigate factors associated with culling, in relation to udder health, in 1,452 dairy herds. The data included milk yield, somatic cell counts (SCC), parity, and different disease related factors with a special focus on udder health. In each herd, observations and survival analyses were divided into five groups: mid lactation heifers, late lactation heifers, early lactation cows, mid lactation cows, and late lactation cows. The results showed that a high average milk yield reduced the culling hazard, and a number of risk factors (e.g., parity, a high SCC or treatment of mastitis) were associated with an increased hazard for culling. Importantly, the strength and direction of many of these associations was dependent on the lactation stage. The resulting coefficients were further analysed by principal component analysis and clustering to explore variations in culling risk factors amongst herds. In some herds, parity was an important factor for culling, while in other herds, average milk yield, SCC, or udder health were more important factors. However, clusters were substantially overlapping, indicating that the decision making process underlying culling is complex and multifactorial.

TidsskriftPreventive Veterinary Medicine
StatusUdgivet - 2019

ID: 227873008