Little information is available about current practices around calving in dairy cattle. The aim of this study was to describe calving management practices in the Canadian dairy industry related to housing, calving protocols, monitoring of parturition, and calving assistance. Information was gathered by in-person interviews from 236 dairy farms from 3 Canadian provinces (Alberta, Ontario, and Québec) with freestalls and an automatic milking system (n = 24), freestalls with a parlor (n = 112), and tiestalls (n = 100). The most commonly used types of calving facilities were group calving pens (35%) followed by individual calving pens (30%). Tiestalls were used by 26% of all surveyed producers as their main type of calving area (49% of the tiestall, 7% of the freestall with parlor, and 13% of the automatic milking system farms). Written protocols related to calving were found on only 7% of the farms visited, and only 50% of those protocols were developed with a veterinarian. However, 90% of producers kept written records of calving difficulty. Monitoring of cows around calving occurred 5 times more often during the daytime (between morning and evening milking) compared with nighttime. Cameras were used to monitor cows around and during calvings on 18% of farms. Sixteen percent of producers vaginally palpated all animals during calving. Twenty-seven percent of producers interviewed assisted all calvings on their farms by pulling the calf, and 37% assisted all heifers at calving. According to the producers' reported perception, 93% of them had "a minor problem" or "no problem" with calving difficulties on their farms. This study provides basic data on current calving practices and identifies areas for improvement and potential targets for knowledge transfer efforts or research to clarify best management practices.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was funded by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) and Dairy Farmers of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) as part of the Dairy Science Cluster initiative, the Fonds Quebecois de la Recherche sur la Nature et les Technologies (FQRNT; Quebec city, Quebec, Canada)– Novalait (Quebec, Quebec, Canada)–Ministère de l’Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l’Alimentation du Québec (MAPAQ; Quebec, Quebec, Canada), and by Alberta Milk (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada). Stipend support was provided by Valacta Inc (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada), the Ontario Veterinary College (Guelph, Ontario, Canada) and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Ontario Ministry of Rural Affairs (Guelph, Ontario, Canada). The authors also thank the students and research coordinators who organized and collected the data: Jenny Gibbons and Gemma Charlton (AAFC, Agassiz, British Columbia, Canada), Clémence Nash and Jessica Zaffino (University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada), Véronique Bouffard and François Bécotte (Laval University, Quebec city, Quebec, Canada), and Laura Solano and Guiherme Bond (University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada).
- Calving pen
- Calving practices
- Cattle obstetrics