Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » West Lafayette, Indiana » Livestock Behavior Research » Research » Research Project #441499

Research Project: Characterizing Formula-fed Veal and Dairy Beef Calf Welfare through Audits and Industry Engagement

Location: Livestock Behavior Research

Project Number: 5020-32000-014-006-A
Project Type: Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2023
End Date: Aug 31, 2024

Objective:
1 - Assess animal-based measures of surplus calf welfare and risk factors for morbidity and mortality during the production period 1.1 - Estimate the prevalence of poor health outcomes, painful conditions, and main dimensions of emotional states in surplus calves on arrival and 1, 5, 10 and 20 weeks after arrival 1.2 - Identify management-based risk factors for suboptimal welfare outcomes described in Objective 1.1 2 - Characterize antemortem/postmortem animal-based measures of surplus calf welfare and risk factors for reduced value at slaughter 2.1 - Estimate the prevalence of antemortem animal-based measures and risk factors for surplus calf welfare and value on arrival at slaughter 2.2 - Estimate the prevalence of postmortem animal-based measures and risk factors for surplus calf welfare and reduced value 3 - Determine if benchmarking animal-based measures influences producer attitudes, management practices, and calf welfare outcomes 3.1 - Evaluate the impact of producer consultation and individualized reports ("benchmarking") on changes in animal welfare outcomes and on-farm management for formula-fed veal and dairy-beef calves 3.2 - Evaluate the impact of benchmarking on producer attitudes and motivations relative to changes in surplus calf management practices

Approach:
1 - A multi-level, observational study design will be used to estimate the prevalence of poor health outcomes and painful conditions in formula-fed veal and dairy-beef calves on arrival and 1, 5, 10, and 20 weeks after arrival to raising facilities. Calves will be evaluated for signs of respiratory disease; diarrhea; depression; dehydration; navel inflammation; body condition; hygiene; any hair loss; hock lesions knee injuries; and lameness. Wounds caused by castration will also be scored using a 5-point scale, and disbudding/dehorning wounds will be scored using a 7-point scale. Qualitative Behavioral Assessment will be used for assessments of emotional state. To identify management-based measures that are risk factors for the animal-based measures described, facility, housing, and management measures will be taken. 2 - We will conduct a cross-sectional observational study and leverage relationships with 5-7 slaughter establishments to survey antemortem/postmortem animal-based measures of welfare. We will perform visual assessments on formula-fed veal and dairy-beef animals on arrival at the establishment. Animal-based measures will be consistent with the assessments performed in Objective 1. The number of non-ambulatory animals will be recorded, as well as any antemortem condemnations and reasons for condemnations. 3 - We will use a farm-level, randomized field trial study design and enroll all farms from Objective 1. Calf raisers will be block randomized by pre-intervention animal-based welfare indicators and herd size to receive (intervention) or not receive (control) the producer consultation and benchmarking reports. After Objectives 1 and 2 have been completed, the prevalence of animal-based outcomes will be calculated per farm to produce a series of benchmarking reports. Producers allocated to the intervention group will receive individualized reports that summarize the prevalence of each animal-based measure on their farm and how they compare to the other farms enrolled. After the completion of the second assessment period, producers in the benchmarking group will be asked to participate in a semi-structured interview.