Dairy cow mortality (unassisted death and euthanasia) has increased, worldwide and in Sweden. On-farm mortality indicates suboptimal herd health or welfare and causes financial loss for the dairy producer. The objective of this study was to identify cow-level risk factors associated with on-farm cow mortality. Cows with at least one calving between 1 July 2008 and 30 June 2009 from herds enrolled in the Swedish official milk recording scheme with >40 cow-years were included. Each cow was followed from the day of calving until she calved again or left the herd (died, slaughtered or sold). The effects of potential risk factors on on-farm cow mortality were analysed using a Weibull proportional hazard model with a gamma distributed frailty effect common to cows within herd. The event of interest (failure) was euthanasia or unassisted death. An observation was right censored if the cow was slaughtered, sold, calved again or had an on-going lactation at 500 days after calving. The lactations were split into seasons (January to April, May to August and September to December) and at 30 and 100 days in milk in order to evaluate seasonal effects and the effect of disease in different lactation stages. Primiparous and multiparous cows were analysed separately. The highest hazards for both primiparous and multiparous cows were found for traumatic events and diseases, both in the lactation stage in which the cow died and in the preceding stage. The hazard was higher in early lactation and lower in 2nd parity compared to higher parities. Increased age at first calving (for primiparous cows), calving between January and April, dystocia and stillbirth also increased the mortality hazard. Differences were also found between breeds, between milk production parameters at first test milking and between management types. The results from this study show the importance of good management and preventive health actions, especially around calving, to avoid mortality in dairy cows.
Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 2014, Vol 117, Issue 1, p. 110-120
Adult cattle mortality; Culling; Euthanasia; Survival analysis; Unassisted death