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Open AccessCommentary

Timely Euthanasia in the United States Dairy Industry–Challenges and a Path Forward

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Danone North America, 3333 Dan Morton Drive, Dallas, TX 75236, USA
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Department of Animal Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1171, USA
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Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(1), 71; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10010071
Received: 1 December 2019 / Revised: 23 December 2019 / Accepted: 28 December 2019 / Published: 31 December 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Domestic Animal Behavior and Well-Being)
Euthanasia is a critical component of livestock production systems, providing producers, veterinarians, and caretakers a way to alleviate animal suffering. Although the intention is to keep all animals healthy, there are times when an animal must be euthanized when chances of recovery are low, the animal’s pain is not manageable, and/or its quality of life has deteriorated. The timeliness of euthanasia is an equally critical component of animal welfare. Activist groups have called out the dairy industry on this issue and the data suggests the untimeliness of euthanasia on dairy farms is an area in need of significant improvement. Failure to make timely euthanasia decisions impacts cow welfare and has a negative effect on the dairy business and caretaker. There are many factors influencing timely euthanasia decisions, which may be why effectively managing euthanasia on dairies can be a challenge. Factors impacting euthanasia decisions include caretaker training, availability of protocols, treatment decisions, quality of life assessment, human–animal bond, and economic influences. The dairy industry must develop effective resources to ensure a culture of care that supports timely euthanasia as a priority. This review discusses some of the factors impacting timely euthanasia decisions and proposes a path forward to improvement.
Euthanasia is a valuable management tool utilized on dairies to end the suffering of sick or debilitated cows. Euthanasia should be implemented if an animal’s pain cannot be adequately alleviated and if there is a limited chance of recovery. To be humane, euthanasia should be quick, painless, and administered by a trained individual. Despite its importance in ensuring cow well-being, the timeliness with which euthanasia decisions are made for dairy cattle is often overlooked or neglected. The timeliness of euthanasia is as important as the efficient, rapid administration of euthanasia itself. Timely euthanasia is a critical component of many on-farm animal care and verification programs yet opportunities exist within the industry to improve how effectively the industry is executing this critical component of cow management. There are challenges associated with performing euthanasia in a timely manner, such as inconsistencies in treatment protocols, inadequate employee training, difficulties assessing a cow’s quality of life, and impacts of the human–animal bond on decision-making. The objective of this paper is to explain the importance of timely euthanasia to dairy cattle welfare, identify the challenges that can prevent the timeliness of euthanasia, and provide solutions and practical suggestions for improving the management of timely euthanasia on dairies. View Full-Text
Keywords: culling; dairy cattle; human-animal bond; timely euthanasia; welfare culling; dairy cattle; human-animal bond; timely euthanasia; welfare
MDPI and ACS Style

Walker, J.B.; Roman-Muniz, I.N.; Edwards-Callaway, L.N. Timely Euthanasia in the United States Dairy Industry–Challenges and a Path Forward. Animals 2020, 10, 71.

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