Culling is the departure of cows from the herd as a result of sale, slaughter, health, national regulations, salvage, or death. Cull cows are removed from farms with poor health, production, behavior, or other problems, and during pre-slaughter they are sometimes kept without food and water, which compromises their well-being. The objective of the present study was to evaluate the welfare state of culled dairy cows during pre-slaughter using some animal-based measurements and to identify possible associations between them. Data were recorded for 62 different dairy production farms referring to 137 cull cows (n
= 60 Holstein and n
= 77 Normandy crosses) slaughtered in an abattoir in Colombia (South America). In this study, we evaluated and recorded land transport conditions, the health of animals on arrival to the abattoir, human–animal interaction, stress physiological variables and the association of these variables with characteristic bruises on the carcass, the lairage time, the presence of diseases, and the stage of pregnancy. In total, 98.5% of the cows were very thin, 35.7% were pregnant, and 84.7% had bruising on the carcass. In total, 74.5% had clinical conditions; these included skin lesions (32.4%), mastitis (27.5%), lameness (21.6%), vulvar secretions (8.8%), diarrhea (6.8%), and eye carcinoma (2.9%). The total number of cull cows with bruises during pre-slaughter was associated with lot size, transport time, presence of pregnancy, body score condition, and creatine kinase levels. The results suggest that the cows were not fit for transport because their health was severely affected before they left the farms. The animal-based indicators used in this study are useful for evaluating the welfare of cull dairy cows at abattoirs.
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