Dairy producer attitudes to pain in cattle in relation to disbudding calves

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Pain is an important indicator of poor welfare of livestock. Despite this, pain has largely gone unrecognized in farm animals due to attitudes of producers and veterinarians, although they play a key role in monitoring and managing the perception of animal pain. Producer attitudes toward animal welfare influence livestock management and production. The aim was to quantify dairy producer attitudes to the painfulness of various cattle diseases and disbudding, a painful routine procedure performed on farm to ensure safer handling of cattle. A questionnaire on disbudding-related opinions and practices was sent to 1,000 Finnish dairy producers (response rate: 45%). Attitudes toward disbudding were gauged using a 5-point Likert scale and attitudes to cattle pain scored on an 11-point numerical rating scale. Principal components analysis was used to assess the loadings, which were further tested for differences between producer gender and housing systems with Mann-Whitney U-tests, and between herd milk yield, herd size, and age and work experience of producers with a Kruskal-Wallis test. Four main factors were identified: factor I (“taking disbudding pain seriously”), factor II (“sensitivity to pain caused by cattle diseases”), factor III (“ready to medicate calves myself”), and factor IV (“pro horns”). Female producers took disbudding pain more seriously, were more sensitive to pain caused to cattle by diseases, and were more ready to medicate disbudded calves than male producers. Producers with tie-stalls favored horns over producers with freestalls. Male producers with tie-stalls were sensitive to cattle pain and preferred horns over male producers with freestalls. Female producers with freestalls were more ready to medicate calves, but did not prefer horns more than female producers with tie-stalls. Taking disbudding seriously correlated with sensitivity to pain caused by cattle diseases. Producers with low-milk-yielding herds were less willing to medicate calves and more willing to keep cattle with horns than producers with higher-yielding herds. Older producers were more sensitive to cattle pain than middle-aged and younger producers. No effect was established for taking disbudding pain seriously: the pro-horn factor was associated with work experience, age, and herd size. Women rated pain higher and were more positive toward pain medication for animals than men. Maintaining horns are more important for producers with tie-stalls than for those with freestalls.
TidskriftInternational Journal of Dairy Science
Sidor (från-till)6894–6903
Antal sidor10
StatusPublicerad - okt. 2013
MoE-publikationstypA1 Tidskriftsartikel-refererad


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