Dairy Bull Calf Welfare

Overview:¬†Male dairy calves are typically transported from the home farm where they are born and sold within days after birth. Male calves receive a lower standard of care compared to female calves that remain in the dairy herd, yet why occurs this is not well understood. The level of care calves receive within hours of birth directly impacts their long-term health and welfare, and colostrum administration, navel care, and early-life nutrition provided on the home farm directly influences calves’ risk of disease and mortality later in life.¬†Previous research from our group has identified key health and welfare concerns for male calves when they arrive to veal calf rearing facilities, and this research suggests that deficient care after birth significantly contributes to these poor health and welfare outcomes. Very little information exists regarding the level of care provided to male calves prior to leaving the home farm, and no research has identified or tried to overcome these barriers to improve the management of male dairy calves on the home farm. Specifically, there is no research on how dairy producers perceive the welfare of male calves, and what motivates them to make decisions when it comes to managing these young animals.

Goals: This research project brings together experts from The Ohio State University and the University of Guelph to improve the health and well-being of male calves on dairy farms in the United States and Canada. The overall goals of this project are to:

  1. Understand how male calves are managed prior to leaving the home farm and identify perceived barriers to improving their level of care,
  2. Determine if and why this level of care differs from female calves on the farm, and
  3. Motivate dairy farmers to implement best management practices for all calves after birth through direct feedback to farmers about the health and welfare of the animals under their care.

Project Investigators:

  • Dr. Greg Habing
  • Dr. Katy Proudfoot
  • Dr. Kelly George
  • Dr. Dave Renaud

Project Coordinators:

  • Jessica Pempek
  • Samantha Locke
  • Devon Wilson