Timely Euthanasia in the United States Dairy Industry–Challenges and a Path Forward
Danone North America, 3333 Dan Morton Drive, Dallas, TX 75236, USA
Department of Animal Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1171, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 1 December 2019 / Revised: 23 December 2019 / Accepted: 28 December 2019 / Published: 31 December 2019
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.