Location: Livestock Behavior Research
Project Number: 5020-32000-014-076-I
Project Type: Interagency Reimbursable Agreement
Start Date: Jul 1, 2023
End Date: Jun 30, 2028
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
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. Liver abscess severity will be assessed from O (no abscesses) to A+ (one or more large abscesses are present). Rumens and abomasa will be collected to assess gastrointestinal health disorders. The presence of trichobezoars and abomasal lesions in the pyloric area will be recorded. Pairs of lungs will be collected to assess signs of respiratory disorders. Bruise severity will be assessed using a 10-point scale. Injection-site lesions will also be noted. Broken tails will be recorded as present or absent. 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. Animal-based welfare outcomes and harvest-floor assessments that affect the quality and value of surplus calves, carcasses, and by-products will be collated. One industry-level report will be provided to each producer, with aggregated data for their respective industries (veal or dairy-beef). The research team will then return to all farms enrolled in Objective 1 approximately 6 months following the delivery of the benchmarking reports to reassess the same animal- and management-based measures in Objective 1. After the completion of the second assessment period, producers in the benchmarking group will be asked to participate in a semi-structured interview.