Publications by authors named "Marina A G von Keyserlingk"

103 Publications

Invited review: The welfare of dairy cattle housed in tiestalls compared to less-restrictive housing types: A systematic review.

J Dairy Sci 2021 Jul 9. Epub 2021 Jul 9.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4 Canada. Electronic address:

Many dairy cattle worldwide are housed in tiestalls, meaning that they are tethered by the neck to individual stalls. On some farms, tied cattle are permitted seasonal access to pasture, but otherwise their movements are restricted compared with cows housed in freestall barns or other loose housing systems. The aim of this systematic review is to summarize the scientific literature pertaining the welfare of tied dairy cattle through comparison with less-restrictive housing systems. Articles identified by PubMed and Web of Science underwent a 5-phase screening process, resulting in the inclusion of 102 papers. These papers addressed measures of welfare related to affective state, natural behavior, and health (with the lattermost category subdivided into hoof and leg disorders, lameness, mastitis, transition disease, and other diseases or conditions). Health was the most researched topic (discussed in 86% of articles); only 19% and 14% of studies addressed natural behavior and affective state, respectively. Our review highlights different health benefits for tethered and loose cattle. For example, tied cattle experience reduced prevalence of white line disease and digital dermatitis, whereas loose cattle experience fewer leg lesions and injuries. The prevalence of mastitis, transition diseases, and other conditions did not differ consistently across housing types. We found that the expression of certain natural behaviors, particularly those associated with lying down (e.g., time spent kneeling, unfulfilled intentions to lie down), were impaired in tiestalls. Articles addressing affective state found benefits to loose housing, but these studies focused almost exclusively on (1) physiological measurements and (2) cow comfort, a concept that lacks a consistent operational definition across studies. We call for future research into the affective state of tied cattle that extends beyond these explorations and employs more sophisticated methodologies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2020-19609DOI Listing
July 2021

Perspectives of Western Canadian dairy farmers on providing outdoor access for dairy cows.

J Dairy Sci 2021 Jul 1. Epub 2021 Jul 1.

Department of Production Animal Health, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, T2N 4N1, Canada.

Dairy cows are highly motivated to access pasture, especially at night in summer. When pasture is not available, dairy cows show a partial preference for alternative types of outdoor access, spending half the night outside in summer on an outdoor sand or wood chip pack. However, many dairy farms do not provide cows outside access. To better understand reasons why dairy farmers choose to provide or not provide outdoor access, we studied the perspectives of dairy farmers located in the 4 Western Canadian provinces: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. Data were collected via (1) 11 focus group discussions with a total of 50 Western Canadian dairy farmers, and (2) semi-structured individual interviews with 6 dairy farmers of Hutterite colonies. Transcripts were analyzed using template analysis. Reasons to not provide outdoor access fell into 5 main themes: (1) adverse climate conditions, (2) negative implications of outdoor access for cow welfare including concerns about udder health, (3) concerns regarding decreases in profitability, (4) farm infrastructure not set up for outdoor access, and (5) higher ability to manage animals kept indoors. Reasons to provide outdoor access fell into the 5 main themes: (1) local climate conditions conducive for outdoor access, (2) beneficial effects of outdoor access on cow welfare including lower lameness prevalence, (3) increased profitability due to a premium milk price provided to farmers that allow pasture access to their cows, (4) farm infrastructure that is set up for outdoor access, and (5) easier management of animals outdoors. We conclude that the decision to provide outdoor access depends on how farmers weigh these factors given the constraints on their farm, as well as their personal beliefs and values.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2021-20342DOI Listing
July 2021

The Freestall Reimagined: Effects on Stall Hygiene and Space Usage in Dairy Cattle.

Animals (Basel) 2021 Jun 8;11(6). Epub 2021 Jun 8.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada.

Modern freestall barns for dairy cattle have been constructed with considerations for dairy cow cleanliness; partitions and other stall features such as neck rails are designed to reduce manure contamination of bedding and decrease farm labor. However, cows prefer to lie in more open spaces, including on bedded packs and pasture. We created an "alternative" housing area by modifying a traditional freestall pen and including flexible partitions to create larger lying areas. We assessed cattle lying behaviour, including lying postures, in this alternative pen (ALT) compared to an open pack (OP) and freestalls (FS) with different stocking densities. We also assessed levels of manure contamination across systems. Cleanliness was highest in FS, but ALT provided substantial improvement compared to OP. Cattle spent more time lying down in OP and ALT compared to FS. There were few differences in postures (such as lying with limbs outstretched) between OP and ALT, but cows in both of these systems more often lay in extended positions compared to when they were housed in FS. Housing in OP and ALT was associated with reduced perching for cows with high body weight; perching has been linked to an increased prevalence of both hoof lesions and lameness. Thus, alternative lying areas can offer a solution for producers seeking to provide cattle with the advantages of a more open lying area, while improving hygiene relative to an open pack.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani11061711DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8228901PMC
June 2021

The Dispensable Surplus Dairy Calf: Is This Issue a "Wicked Problem" and Where Do We Go From Here?

Front Vet Sci 2021 14;8:660934. Epub 2021 Apr 14.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Surplus dairy calves consist of all dairy bull calves and any heifer calves not needed as replacements for the milking herd. The fate of these surplus calves varies by region; for example, in Australia and New Zealand they are often sold as "bobby" calves and slaughtered within the first weeks of life; whereas, in North America they are normally sold within the first weeks of life but reared for 16-18 weeks as veal or longer as dairy beef. Regardless of region, demand for these calves is often very low, driving down prices and in some cases leaving farmers with no alternative options other than on-farm euthanasia. The notion that dairy cows must give birth to produce milk and that the calves are immediately separated from the dam, many of which will end up immediately being sold as surplus calves, has become a topic of public concern. These concerns have increased given the growing number of pictures and stories in the media of on-farm euthanasia, dairy calves being transported at very young ages and frequently receiving sub-standard levels of care. In this paper we describe the status quo of this complex, value-laden issue that without transformative change is at great risk for continued criticism from the public. Moreover, despite many attempts at refinement of the existing approach (i.e., the pursuit of technical improvements), little has changed in terms of how these surplus dairy calves are managed and so we predict that on its own, this approach will likely fail in the long run. We then set out how the current surplus calf management practices could be viewed to fit the definition of a "wicked problem." We conclude by calling for new research using participatory methodologies that include the voice of all stakeholders including the public, as a first step in identifying sustainable solutions that resonate with both society and the livestock industry. We briefly discuss three participatory methodologies that have successfully been used to develop sustainable solutions for other complex problems. Adoption of these types of methodologies has the potential to help position the dairy industry as a leader in sustainable food production.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2021.660934DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8079806PMC
April 2021

Employee Management and Animal Care: A Comparative Ethnography of Two Large-Scale Dairy Farms in China.

Animals (Basel) 2021 Apr 27;11(5). Epub 2021 Apr 27.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada.

Farm management can directly and indirectly affect animal care. We explored how farm management affected animal care on two large dairy farms in China (anonymized as Farm A and Farm B). We used a mini-ethnographic case study design whereby the first author lived for 38 days on Farm A and 23 days on Farm B. She conducted participant observation and ethnographic interviews with farm staff positions within five departments in Farm A and six departments in Farm B. In addition, she conducted 13 semi-structured interviews (seven on Farm A; six on Farm B). We used template analysis to generate key themes. On both farms, workers believed that animal care practices had improved over time, due to three key employee management factors: 1) organizational culture, 2) competency of worker and management, and 3) an effective incentive system. Our results suggest that animal care may be improved in this context by: 1) promoting a culture in which workers have 'grit' and are eager to learn, 2) ensuring basic worker wellbeing, and 3) using animal care outcomes as performance indicators linked to pay.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani11051260DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8147064PMC
April 2021

Views of American animal and dairy science students on the future of dairy farms and public expectations for dairy cattle care: A focus group study.

J Dairy Sci 2021 Jul 23;104(7):7984-7995. Epub 2021 Apr 23.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z6 Canada. Electronic address:

Students completing advanced degrees in dairy or animal science may go on to have a major impact on the food animal agriculture industries. The aim of this study was to better understand student views of the future of dairying, including changes in practices affecting animal care on farms as well as perceived public perceptions. We conducted 6 focus group sessions with undergraduate students enrolled in the 2019 US Dairy Education and Training Consortium held in Clovis, New Mexico, and used explorative key word analysis of written notes and thematic analysis of the semi-structured discussions. Some "must-haves" of future animal care on dairy farms included increased use of technology, group housing of calves, and adequate facilities, including enrichment. Students also discussed their views of public expectations regarding animal care on dairy farms, and measures that they felt must be put into place to address these expectations in the coming years. Although the influence of the public was highlighted by the students, they were not always certain what specific values the public holds and doubted the feasibility and practicality of some expectations, such as providing pasture access or keeping the calf and cow together. They further demonstrated uncertainty about how best to align the directions of the industry with public expectations. Although they felt that public education could be used to demonstrate the legitimacy of dairy practices, they also believed that the industry should strive to find compromises and work toward meeting public expectations. Deciding what animal welfare considerations (e.g., naturalness, affective states, or animal health) were most relevant was a challenge for the students, perhaps reflecting diverging messages received during their own education.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2020-19732DOI Listing
July 2021

Captivity-Induced Depression in Animals.

Trends Cogn Sci 2021 07 15;25(7):539-541. Epub 2021 Apr 15.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, 2357 Main Mall, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z6, Canada. Electronic address:

Concern over the welfare of captive animals is growing. Captivity is often associated with frequent exposure to stressors, which may be the source of persistent negative affective states. We argue that captivity may lead to depressive-like states and call for more research on this topic.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2021.03.010DOI Listing
July 2021

COVID-19: transitioning from in class to online teaching in a heartbeat-Research Methods in Applied Biology.

Transl Anim Sci 2021 Jan 2;5(1):txab014. Epub 2021 Feb 2.

Faculty of Land and Food Systems, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Universities around the world were forced to rapidly transition from face-to-face learning environments to online learning. This paper describes this transition through the lens of a professor responsible for a third year Applied Biology class focused on providing undergraduates with research experience. The paper also describes an innovative format used to engage undergraduates in research but also suggests that the creation of safe learning spaces in the virtual world may be key to successful delivery of these types of courses. Lastly, in times of rapid change professors need, on occasion, take a step back and simply listen to their students.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/tas/txab014DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7906442PMC
January 2021

Addition of straw to the early-lactation diet: Effects on feed intake, milk yield, and subclinical ketosis in Holstein cows.

J Dairy Sci 2021 Mar 15;104(3):3008-3017. Epub 2021 Jan 15.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, V6T 1Z4, Canada. Electronic address:

This study evaluated feed intake, milk yield, and subclinical ketosis in dairy cows in early lactation fed 2 different diets postpartum. Cows are typically offered a high-energy ration immediately after calving. We compared a conventional high-energy total mixed ration (TMR) with a transition ration that contained chopped straw. We predicted that adding chopped straw would increase dry matter intake, milk production, and indicators of energy metabolism during the first 3 wk of lactation compared to cows fed a conventional high-energy TMR. We also predicted that carryover effects would be likely for at least 2 wk after treatment ended. A total of 68 mixed-age Holstein cows were enrolled in the study 3 wk before their expected calving. All cows were managed on a single high-forage diet during the dry period. At calving, cows were allocated to 1 of the 2 diets: half to the conventional high-energy TMR (CTMR; n = 34; net energy for lactation = 1.61 Mcal/kg; neutral detergent fiber = 31.7%), and the other half to a high-forage TMR containing chopped wheat straw, equivalent to 4.27% dry matter (STMR; n = 34; net energy for lactation = 1.59 Mcal/kg; neutral detergent fiber = 33.7%) for 3 wk after calving. Cows on STMR were then shifted to CTMR for the next 2 wk to study short-term residual effects on the performance of cows. Treatments were balanced for parity, body condition score, and body weight. Feed intake was measured daily from 2 wk before to 5 wk after calving using automatic feed bins. Blood was sampled twice weekly from 2 wk before to 5 wk after calving, and β-hydroxybutyrate and glucose were measured in serum samples. Subclinical ketosis was identified using a threshold of β-hydroxybutyrate ≥1.0 mmol/L in wk 1 after calving and ≥1.2 mmol/L in wk 2 to 5 after calving. Cows were milked twice daily, and weekly samples (composite samples of morning and afternoon milkings) were analyzed to determine total solids, fat, protein, lactose, and somatic cell count. Data were analyzed in 2 separate periods: the treatment phase (wk +1, +2, and +3) and the post-treatment phase (wk +4 and +5). The addition of straw to the TMR negatively affected the dry matter intake of STMR cows during wk 2 and 3 of lactation. Daily milk yield during the first 5 wk of lactation was lower in STMR cows than in CTMR cows. Concentrations of β-hydroxybutyrate were higher in CTMR cows than in STMR cows during wk 1, but this effect was reversed during wk 2 and 3 of lactation. By 21 d in milk, STMR cows had a greater risk of developing subclinical ketosis than CTMR cows. Adding chopped wheat straw to the TMR during the first 21 d after calving lowered dry matter intake and provided no metabolic or production benefits to lactating dairy cattle.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2020-18549DOI Listing
March 2021

The effects of social environment on standing behavior and the development of claw horn lesions.

J Dairy Sci 2021 Feb 30;104(2):2195-2211. Epub 2020 Nov 30.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6T 1Z4, Canada. Electronic address:

The primary aim of this prospective experimental study was to evaluate how the social environment after calving influenced standing behavior in primiparous cows. At calving, primiparous cows were mixed with familiar peers in a low-stocked pen (≤33% stocking density; n = 22) or mixed with unknown older cows at 100% stocking density (n = 20). All study cows were mixed with older cows 3 wk after calving. Time spent standing and perching (standing with only the front feet in the stall) were measured d 1 to 3 after calving using 5-min scan sampling. To evaluate if the low-stocked treatment constituted a low-stress social environment, agonistic interactions at the feed barrier were measured for 90 min following feed delivery for a subsample of cows in both treatments (12 cows/treatment). The daily behavioral time budget, including the 90 min following milking, was examined for this subset of cows. A secondary aim was to assess if the social environment after calving was related to the risk of developing claw horn lesions later in lactation. Sole and white line lesions were recorded at wk 6 and 12 after calving, and cows were categorized as either having or not having at least 1 hemorrhage of severity ≥3 (scale 1 to 5) for each lesion type and assessment. Prolonged standing after regrouping was not observed, and we found no differences in standing time and time spent perching between treatments. Agonistic behaviors directed toward the focal cows occurred less frequently in the low-stocked pen compared with the control. The number and severity of sole and white line lesions increased after calving. At wk 6 postpartum there was a numeric (but not statistically significant) difference between treatments in the proportion of primiparous cows that had white line hemorrhages of severity score ≥3 (low-stress social environment: 20% vs. control: 50%). In conclusion, under the conditions of this study the social environment did not influence standing behavior, but did affect agonistic interactions and may have influenced the risk of claw horn lesions in the weeks following calving. Further studies should evaluate the relationship between the social environment and claw health.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2020-18918DOI Listing
February 2021

Pessimistic dairy calves are more vulnerable to pain-induced anhedonia.

PLoS One 2020 18;15(11):e0242100. Epub 2020 Nov 18.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

Pain induces deficits in appreciation of rewards (i.e. anhedonia) and variation in response to pain may be partly explained by individual differences in general expectations (i.e. optimism). Dairy calves are routinely subjected to painful procedures such as hot-iron disbudding. We tested if female Holstein calves (n = 17) display signs of anhedonia (as evidenced by reduced consumption of a sweet solution) after hot-iron disbudding (performed under general and local anesthesia), and whether individual differences in optimism explain the variation in this response. Individual variation in optimism was measured using responses to two judgment bias tests (performed when calves were 25 d old), and anhedonia was measured by comparing consumption of a sweet solution before and after hot-iron disbudding. We found that intake of the sweet solution declined (by mean ± SD: 48.4 ± 44.3%) on the day after disbudding, and that more pessimistic calves were more affected. Sweet solution consumption did not return to baseline for the duration of the study (i.e. 5 days). Calves reduced their intake of a sweet solution after hot-iron disbudding, consistent with pain-induced anhedonia, and more pessimistic calves showed stronger evidence of anhedonia, suggesting that they were more affected by the procedure. However, our results cannot rule out the possibility that calf responses were driven by anorexia.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0242100PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7673544PMC
December 2020

Graduate Student Literature Review: Challenges and opportunities for human resource management on dairy farms.

J Dairy Sci 2021 Jan 12;104(1):1192-1202. Epub 2020 Nov 12.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z4. Electronic address:

Dairy farms are increasing in size and moving from family to external labor. As such, dairy farmers now have the responsibilities of a human resource manager in addition to caring for their animals. The objective of this paper was to review literature in 5 areas of human resource management of a dairy farm: (1) professional accreditation and professional development, (2) extension activities, (3) the role of the advisor, (4) standard operating procedures, and (5) employee training. Although there has been an increase in research in this area in recent years, this review identified numerous areas for future research, including the relationships between farmers and their advisors and employees, and the role of standard operating procedures on dairy farms. In addition, we suggest that future studies could benefit from increased use of participatory research methods.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2020-18455DOI Listing
January 2021

Conditioned place aversion of caustic paste and hot-iron disbudding in dairy calves.

J Dairy Sci 2020 Dec 15;103(12):11653-11658. Epub 2020 Oct 15.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z4. Electronic address:

Cauterization by hot iron and application of caustic paste are 2 common methods of disbudding calves. In this study, we compared the affective experience of these 2 procedures on young dairy calves using conditioned place aversion. Male dairy calves (n = 14; 7 ± 2 d old) were disbudded by both thermal and chemical methods (1 horn bud at a time, 48 h apart). Calves received treatments in pens made visually distinct with either red squares or blue triangles on the walls. Calves were restricted to these treatment pens for 6 h following disbudding. For all treatments, calves received a sedative (xylazine, 0.2 mg/kg), local anesthetic (lidocaine, 5 mL), and analgesic (meloxicam, 0.5 mg/kg). Calves were then tested for conditioned place aversion at 48, 72, and 96 h after their last treatment. During tests, calves were placed in a neutral pen connected to both treatment pens where they had previously been disbudded. Time spent in each treatment pen was recorded until calves chose to lie down for 1 min (latency to lie down: 31.0 ± 8.6 min). During the first test (48 h after last disbudding), calves spent more time in the pen associated with hot-iron disbudding compared with what would be expected by chance (intercept: 73.5%, 95% CI: 56.5, 90.5) and fewer calves lay down in the caustic paste pen than in the hot-iron pen (3 vs. 10 lying events). No evidence of preference for the hot-iron pen was found in the following test sessions (72 and 96 h since last disbudding). These results suggest that calves initially remember caustic paste disbudding as a more negative experience than hot-iron disbudding, even with the use of sedation, local anesthesia, and analgesia.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2020-18299DOI Listing
December 2020

Organic Dairy Cattle: Do European Union Regulations Promote Animal Welfare?

Animals (Basel) 2020 Oct 1;10(10). Epub 2020 Oct 1.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z6, Canada.

Animal welfare is an emerging concept in EU law; with the advent of specific regulations intending to protect animals. The approach taken by European lawmakers is to provide "minimum standards" for conventional farming; argued by some as failing to adequately protect animals. In contrast, the EU organic farming regulations aim to "establish a sustainable management system for agriculture" and promote "high animal welfare standards". The first aim of this review was to identify key areas where there are clear improvements in quality of life for dairy cattle housed under the EU organic regulations when compared to the conventional EU regulations. Using the available scientific evidence, our second aim was to identify areas where the organic regulations fail to provide clear guidance in their pursuit to promote high standards of dairy cattle welfare. The greater emphasis placed on natural living conditions, the ban of some (but unfortunately not all) physical mutilations combined with clearer recommendations regarding housing conditions potentially position the organic dairy industry to achieve high standards of welfare. However, improvements in some sections are needed given that the regulations are often conveyed using vague language, provide exceptions or remain silent on some aspects. This review provides a critical reflection of some of these key areas related to on-farm aspects. To a lesser extent, post farm gate aspects are also discussed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani10101786DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7600357PMC
October 2020

Dairy farmer advising in relation to the development of standard operating procedures.

J Dairy Sci 2020 Dec 25;103(12):11524-11534. Epub 2020 Sep 25.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6T 1Z4. Electronic address:

Standard operating procedures (SOP) are increasingly required on farms participating in animal welfare assurance programs, such as the Dairy Farmers of Canada's proAction initiative and the National Dairy FARM Program in the United States. However, little is known about the use of SOP on farms and who is involved in their development. Literature from other industries shows the importance of including advisors when developing SOP. Despite veterinarians being viewed by many farmers as trusted sources of information, little is known about their involvement in SOP development. The aim of this study was to better understand: (1) what advice from researchers and veterinarians is considered when developing an SOP and (2) what factors affect advice adherence. Participants in this study were farmers (n = 9) from 6 dairy farms in the Fraser Valley region of British Columbia, Canada and their herd veterinarians (n = 5). Structured and semi-structured interviews and participant observation were undertaken from April to December 2018, and the resulting data were analyzed using thematic analysis. In relation to the first aim, we identified 3 main themes: (1) the purpose of the SOP, (2) developing an SOP, and (3) accountability and tracking of procedures. For the second aim, 5 themes emerged: (1) feasibility of the advice, (2) resources required, (3) priority of the advice, (4) other actors involved, and (5) the importance of data. Collectively, these findings suggest that a farm-specific SOP that actively tracks procedures is most beneficial, and that advice adherence is context dependent.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2020-18487DOI Listing
December 2020

Perspectives of western Canadian dairy farmers on the future of farming.

J Dairy Sci 2020 Nov 18;103(11):10273-10282. Epub 2020 Sep 18.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z6 Canada. Electronic address:

Similar to the situation in many countries, the dairy industry in Canada is challenged by the need to adapt to changing societal demands. An industry-led initiative (Dairy Farmers of Canada's proAction Initative, known as proAction) was developed to respond to this challenge, providing mandatory national standards for on-farm practices. Farmers are more likely to follow such standards if they are aligned with their values and beliefs. The aim of this study was to better understand farmers' perspectives on the future of the Canadian dairy industry, with a focus on the role of mandatory policies such as those related to proAction. Seven focus groups were conducted, with discussions based on the principles of appreciative inquiry. Participants were each asked to write down key words that represent the "must-haves" on dairy farms in 20 yr from now. Although participants were encouraged to focus on aspects directly related to animal care, all answers were accepted. Key words were then used to facilitate a discussion and elicit ideas on how to achieve these must-haves. Particular focus was on the direction that participants believed policy should take to meet these goals. Explorative qualitative analysis was used for the written key words, and transcripts of the audio-recorded focus group discussions were analyzed using thematic analysis. Examples of farm-specific considerations that were raised as future must-haves of animal care on dairy farms included cow comfort, employee management, responsible health management, and use of advanced thechnologies. Participants agreed that objectives can only be achieved through collaboration among farmers and between farmers and researchers, and they regarded citizen education as a promising approach to align differing expectations of the public and farmers. Citizen trust in the dairy industry was considered a must-have, and participants believed that one of the benefits of mandatory policies for animal care is their potential to increase trust. These results may help guide the development of new animal care policies and increase understanding of the perceived legitimacy of new policies by dairy farmers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2020-18430DOI Listing
November 2020

Effect of cow-calf contact on cow motivation to reunite with their calf.

Sci Rep 2020 08 28;10(1):14233. Epub 2020 Aug 28.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, 2357 Main Mall, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z6, Canada.

Early cow-calf separation prevents much of cows' natural maternal behaviour. Early separation is thought to prevent the development of a cow-calf bond. To assess this bond, we measured motivation of dairy cows to reunite with their calf. To vary the degree of bonding, some cows were allowed continued contact with their calf and others were separated from their calf soon after birth, following standard practice on most farms. Among cows allowed continued contact, some were able to suckle their calf and others were prevented from suckling (by covering the cow's udder with an udder net). Cows were habituated to the weighted-gate apparatus before calving by daily training with the (un-weighted) gate. After calving, cow willingness to use the gate was assessed by determining if she would push open the gate to access to her own calf. Testing occurred once daily, with weight on the gate gradually increased. After passing through the gate, the dam's calf-directed behaviour was recorded. Suckled cows pushed a greater maximum weight (45.8 ± 7.8 kg) than separated cows (21.6 ± 6.7 kg) and non-suckled cows (24.3 ± 4.5 kg), with no differences between separated and non-suckled cows. Once reunited, latency to make nose contact and duration of licking did not differ between treatments. We conclude that motivation for calf contact is greater for cows that are suckled.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-70927-wDOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7455555PMC
August 2020

Individual Variability in Response to Social Stress in Dairy Heifers.

Animals (Basel) 2020 Aug 18;10(8). Epub 2020 Aug 18.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada.

Regrouping is associated with increased aggression, and disruption of time-budgets. Individuals vary in how well they cope with social stress. Our objective was to describe individual differences in agonistic behavior in dairy heifers after regrouping, and determine how time-budget and behavioral synchronization were affected by these coping strategies. A total of 30 heifers were individually regrouped at 5-months of age into stable groups of 12 unfamiliar animals. For 24 h, agonistic behaviors initiated and received by the regrouped heifer were continuously recorded, and standing, resting and feeding time and synchronization were sampled every 5 min. Scores of engagement in agonistic interactions and avoidance of interactions were calculated for each regrouped heifer. Linear mixed effects models were used to assess whether these two response types were related, and how variation in these responses related to activity and synchronization. Engaged heifers displayed lower avoidance and spent more time feeding. Avoidant heifers spent less time feeding and resting, and were less synchronized while feeding. We conclude that dairy heifers differ in social coping strategy when regrouped through different levels of engagement and avoidance, and that these differences affected their time-budget and behavioral synchronization.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani10081440DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7459822PMC
August 2020

Short communication: Motivation to walk affects gait attributes.

J Dairy Sci 2020 Oct 31;103(10):9481-9487. Epub 2020 Jul 31.

Animal Welfare Program, University of British Columbia, 2357 Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6T 1Z4. Electronic address:

Lameness is a major welfare problem in the dairy industry. Environmental factors, such as flooring surface, as well as cow-level factors, such as udder fill, can influence gait. The aim of the current study was to test whether motivation to walk affects gait attributes and whether this effect differs between lame and sound cows. We trained cows to walk down an alley for a food reward and assessed walking speed, stride length, head bob, and back arch of cows previously identified as either lame (n = 7) or sound (n = 10). Cows were assessed when they walked toward a food reward and toward no reward. Cows walked faster and had longer stride length and less variation in head bob when approaching the reward; these effects were similar in both sound and lame cows. We concluded that motivation to walk affects several gait attributes of dairy cows.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2019-18060DOI Listing
October 2020

Moving online: roadmap and long-term forecast.

Anim Front 2020 Jul 23;10(3):36-45. Epub 2020 Jul 23.

Department of Animal Sciences and Industry, Kansas State University, Animal Sciences and Industry, Manhattan, KS.

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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/af/vfaa027DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7377510PMC
July 2020

The Influence of Different Types of Outdoor Access on Dairy Cattle Behavior.

Front Vet Sci 2020 13;7:257. Epub 2020 May 13.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Pasture access for dairy cows is highly valued both by cows and the public at large. When pasture access is not feasible, farmers can provide cows with alternative forms of outdoor access, such as an outdoor bedded pack, that may be easier to implement on some farms. We reviewed the literature on how lying, standing, walking, feeding, social, and estrus behaviors are influenced by pasture and other types of outdoor areas. Pasture allows the expression of grazing and can facilitate the expression of lying, standing, walking, and estrus behaviors. In addition, pasture can decrease the number of negative social interactions between cows, likely because more space per cow is provided than what is normally available indoors. The provision of soft flooring and an open space in outdoor bedded packs appears to provide some benefits for lying, standing, and walking behavior and may also have positive effects on social behavior, especially with larger space allowances. The effects of an outdoor bedded pack on estrus behavior are less well-documented, but the provision of a standing surface that provides better footing than typically available indoors may promote estrus behavior. Alternative outdoor areas assessed to date appear to be less attractive for cows than pasture, perhaps because these areas do not provide the opportunity to graze. We encourage future research to investigate the importance of grazing for dairy cows. The motivation of dairy cows to access alternative outdoor areas should also be investigated. As cow preference for the outdoors depends on many factors, providing cows a choice may be of particular importance.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fvets.2020.00257DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7238891PMC
May 2020

Predicting Disease in Transition Dairy Cattle Based on Behaviors Measured Before Calving.

Animals (Basel) 2020 May 27;10(6). Epub 2020 May 27.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, Vancouver BC V6T 1Z4, Canada.

Dairy cattle are particularly susceptible to metritis, hyperketonemia (HYK), and mastitis in the weeks after calving. These high-prevalence transition diseases adversely affect animal welfare, milk production, and profitability. Our aim was to use prepartum behavior to predict which cows have an increased risk of developing these conditions after calving. The behavior of 213 multiparous and 105 primiparous Holsteins was recorded for approximately three weeks before calving by an electronic feeding system. Cows were also monitored for signs of metritis, HYK, and mastitis in the weeks after calving. The data were split using a stratified random method: we used 70% of our data (hereafter referred to as the "training" dataset) to develop the model and the remaining 30% of data (i.e., the "test" dataset) to assess the model's predictive ability. Separate models were developed for primiparous and multiparous animals. The area under the receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve using the test dataset for multiparous cows was 0.83, sensitivity and specificity were 73% and 80%, positive predictive value (PPV) was 73%, and negative predictive value (NPV) was 80%. The area under the ROC curve using the test dataset for primiparous cows was 0.86, sensitivity and specificity were 71% and 84%, PPV was 77%, and NPV was 80%. We conclude that prepartum behavior can be used to predict cows at risk of metritis, HYK, and mastitis after calving.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani10060928DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7341500PMC
May 2020

Competition Strategies of Metritic and Healthy Transition Cows.

Animals (Basel) 2020 May 15;10(5). Epub 2020 May 15.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada.

Our study aimed to characterize social competition strategies in transition cows, and determine how these varied with health status. We retrospectively followed 52 cows during 3 periods (PRE: d -6 to -1 prepartum, POST1: d 1 to 3 postpartum, POST2: d 4 to 6 postpartum). Cows diagnosed with metritis on d 6 postpartum ( = 26) were match paired with healthy cows ( = 26). Measures of agonistic behavior (i.e., replacements at the feeder) and feeding synchrony were determined by an algorithm based on electronic feed bin data, and used to calculate competition strategies via principal component analysis. We found consistent strategies, defined by two components (asynchrony and competitiveness; explaining 82% of the total variance). We observed no differences in strategies when comparing healthy and metritic cows, but metritic cows tended to change their strategies more between PRE and POST1, and between POST1 and POST2, indicating that strategies change in association with parturition and metritis. We conclude that cows show individual variation in competition strategies, and that automated measures of strategy change may help in detecting metritis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/ani10050854DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7278391PMC
May 2020

Social approach and place aversion in relation to conspecific pain in dairy calves.

PLoS One 2020 14;15(5):e0232897. Epub 2020 May 14.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, B.C., Canada.

Despite scientific interest in animal empathy, and growing public concern for farm animal welfare, the empathic abilities of farm animals remain under researched. In this study, we investigated empathic responses of young Holstein dairy calves to conspecifics recovering from hot-iron disbudding, a painful procedure common on dairy farms. A combination of social approach and place conditioning was used. First, 'observer' calves witnessed two 'demonstrator' calves recover from either a painful procedure (hot-iron disbudding and sedation) or a sham procedure (sedation alone) in distinct pens. Observer calves spent more time in proximity and paid more attention to calves recovering from the painful procedure compared to sham calves (proximity: 59.6 ± 4.3%; attention: 54.3 ± 1.5%). Observers were then tested for conditioned place aversion (in the absence of demonstrators) at 48h, 72h and 96h after the second demonstration; observers tended to avoid the pen associated with conspecific pain during the second of the three tests, spending 34.8 ± 9.6% of their time in this pen. No strong evidence of pain empathy was found, but our tentative results encourage further research on empathy in animals.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0232897PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7224486PMC
August 2020

Use of a food neophobia test to characterize personality traits of dairy calves.

Sci Rep 2020 04 28;10(1):7111. Epub 2020 Apr 28.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, B.C., V6T 1Z4, Canada.

Food neophobia, i.e. the avoidance of novel foods, is common in ruminants and may provide a biologically relevant and practical way to test individual responses to novelty or challenge. We aimed to determine if behavioural responses in a food neophobia test (exposure to a novel total mixed ration) reflected boldness and exploratory personality traits derived from 3 traditional tests (open field, novel human and novel object) in dairy calves. We performed two Principal Component Analyses, one using behaviours from 3 traditional tests (3 factors: 'Bold', 'Exploratory' and 'Active'), and one using behaviours from the food neophobia test (3 factors: 'Eating', 'Inspecting', and 'Avoidance'). A regression analysis determined if individual factor scores from the food neophobia test predicted factor scores from the traditional tests. Contrary to our expectations, 'Avoidance' (latencies to approach and eat the novel food) did not predict boldness trait, and the factors 'Inspecting' (time spent inspecting food and empty buckets) and 'Eating' (time spent eating food and total intake) did not predict exploration trait, but they did predict active trait. These results suggest that the food neophobia test in our study resulted in context-specific behaviours, or that behavioural responses to a novel food present different underlying personality traits. The application of food neophobia to assess specific or generalized personality traits of dairy calves deserves further work.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-63930-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7188825PMC
April 2020

Assessing the motivation to learn in cattle.

Sci Rep 2020 04 22;10(1):6847. Epub 2020 Apr 22.

Animal Welfare Program, University of British Columbia 2357 Main Mall, V6T 1Z4, Vancouver, Canada.

Cognitive challenges may provide a form of enrichment to improve the welfare of captive animals. Primates, dolphins, and goats will voluntarily participate in learning tasks suggesting that these are rewarding, but little work has been conducted on livestock species. We investigated the motivation of 10 pairs of Holstein heifers to experience learning opportunities using a yoked design. All heifers were trained to perform an operant response (nose touch) on a variable interval schedule. Learning heifers then performed this response to access a discrimination learning task in which colour and texture of feed-bin lids signified a preferred reward (grain) vs. a non-preferred reward (straw). Control heifers received the same feed without a choice of bins or association of feed with lid type. Learning heifers approached the target to begin sessions faster (p = 0.024) and tended to perform more operant responses (p = 0.08), indicating stronger motivation. Treatments did not differ in the frequency with which heifers participated in voluntary training sessions. We conclude that heifers are motivated to participate in learning tasks, but that aspects of the experience other than discrimination learning were also rewarding. Cognitive challenges and other opportunities to exert control over the environment may improve animal welfare.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-63848-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7176709PMC
April 2020

Long-term consistency of personality traits of cattle.

R Soc Open Sci 2020 Feb 12;7(2):191849. Epub 2020 Feb 12.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 1Z4.

Personality is often defined as the behaviour of individual animals that is consistent across contexts and over time. Personality traits may become unstable during stages of ontogeny from infancy to adulthood, especially during major periods of development such as around the time of sexual maturation. The personality of domesticated farm animals has links with productivity, health and welfare, but to our knowledge, no studies have investigated the development and stability of personality traits across developmental life stages in a mammalian farm animal species. Here, we describe the consistency of personality traits across ontogeny in dairy cattle from neonate to first lactation as an adult. The personality traits 'bold' and 'exploratory', as measured by behavioural responses to novelty, were highly consistent during the earlier (before and after weaning from milk) and later (after puberty to first lactation) rearing periods, but were not consistent across these rearing periods when puberty occurred. These findings indicate that personality changes in cattle around sexual maturation are probably owing to major physiological changes that are accelerated under typical management conditions at this time. This work contributes to the understanding of the ontogeny of behaviour in farm animals, especially how and why individuals differ in their behaviour.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.191849DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7062087PMC
February 2020

Symposium review: Considerations for the future of dairy cattle housing: An animal welfare perspective.

J Dairy Sci 2020 Jun 5;103(6):5746-5758. Epub 2020 Mar 5.

Animal Welfare Program, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, University of British Columbia, 2357 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4 Canada. Electronic address:

Many contemporary dairy cattle housing practices are at odds with societal perceptions of positive animal welfare. The public (i.e., those external to the dairy industry) typically emphasizes the importance of naturalness for dairy cattle, such as through provision of pasture, freedom of movement, and the ability to interact socially with conspecifics. Yet, in the United States, the majority of lactating dairy cattle are reportedly housed without any access to pasture, and almost 39% of dairy farms use tiestalls, which restrict movement and social interactions. In addition to being in conflict with public expectations, a lack of pasture access and restrictive housing systems are also in conflict with the animals' own motivations, which can adversely affect their welfare. For example, dairy cattle are highly motivated to access pasture and show a reduction in oral stereotypies when allowed on pasture after periods of tethering. Calves housed without social contact have cognitive deficits and exhibit increased fear responses to novelty. We argue that the long-term sustainability of the dairy industry will depend on the extent to which housing systems reflect public concerns and the animals' priorities. The adoption of technologies, such as automated feeders and remote monitoring systems, may represent a means to practically promote the animals' natural behavior while simultaneously improving individualized care. Although older generations of the public may consider technological solutions to be a further deviation from naturalness and a departure from dairy farming's agrarian roots, the definition of "naturalness" for younger generations may well have expanded to include technology. As the buying power shifts to these younger generations, the adoption of technologies that promote natural cattle behaviors may be one means toward reconciling the disconnect between public perceptions of animal welfare and contemporary dairy farming practices.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2019-17804DOI Listing
June 2020

Hot weather increases competition between dairy cows at the drinker.

J Dairy Sci 2020 Apr 31;103(4):3447-3458. Epub 2020 Jan 31.

Animal Welfare Program, University of British Columbia, 2357 Mall, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6T 1Z4. Electronic address:

Heat-stressed dairy cows on pasture will compete for resources that aid cooling, but it is not known how heat stress affects the competition for water by indoor-housed cows. The aim of this observational study was to evaluate how heat stress affects the behavior of indoor-housed cows at the drinker at both group and cow levels. For 3 wk after calving, cows were housed in a dynamic group of 20 animals in a pen with 12 electronic feed bins, 2 electronic water bins, and 24 freestalls. A total of 69 lactating Holstein dairy cows were enrolled over the 59-d study. The electronic water bins recorded time spent at the drinker, frequency of visits, water intake, and competitive events for 24 h/d. Competitive events were quantified using the number of replacements (recorded when there was a ≤29-s interval between 2 cows sequentially visiting the same drinker). The number of replacements a cow was involved in was used to determine her level of competitive success at the drinker (low, medium, high). The temperature-humidity index (THI) was recorded by the local weather station, and moving averages for daily maximum THI over a 3-d period were calculated. For the analysis of time spent at the drinker, frequency of visits, and water intake, the measures from all cows were averaged to create 1 observation per day, and the number of replacements at the drinker was summed. A linear regression was performed to determine the relationship between THI and group-level drinking behavior. At the cow level, a repeated measures mixed model, with fixed effects of level of competitive success, milk yield, and 3-d maximum THI and a first-order autoregressive covariance structure, was used to determine how increasing THI affects the drinking behavior of individual cows based on their level of competitive success. Feed intake was included as a fixed effect in the water intake model. We found that, with increasing THI, cows drank more water, spent more time at the drinker, made more visits to the drinker, and engaged in more competitive events at the drinker. In exploratory analysis, we found that cows with low competitive success at the drinker shifted their drinking behavior to avoid the drinker at the hottest and most competitive time of day. These results indicate that behavior can be used to indicate when cows feel hot. These measures may be of practical value in deciding when to provide cooling, especially for farms where attendance at the drinker can be monitored electronically.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3168/jds.2019-17456DOI Listing
April 2020