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Article

Determination of Dairy Cattle Euthanasia Criteria and Analysis of Barriers to Humane Euthanasia in the United States: The Veterinarian Perspective

1
Department of Population Health and Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27606, USA
2
Department of Animal Science, College of Agricultural Sciences, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
3
College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA
4
School of Environment and Natural Resources, College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA
5
Departments of Health Management and Companion Animals, Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, PE C1A 4P3, Canada
6
Department of Veterinary Diagnostic and Production Animal Medicine, College of Veterinary Medicine, Iowa State University, Ames, IA 50011, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(6), 1051; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10061051
Received: 27 May 2020 / Revised: 15 June 2020 / Accepted: 16 June 2020 / Published: 18 June 2020
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Humane slaughter of Animals)
Making and carrying out euthanasia decisions on dairy farms is complex and decisions are often challenging and multi-factorial. Training caretakers to be confident in their abilities to make timely decisions about euthanasia is critical. Veterinarians are often asked to serve in the role of training caretakers on euthanasia. Given the valuable role veterinarians play regarding dairy cattle euthanasia, the objective of this two-part study was to evaluate the main factors influencing euthanasia practices on dairy farms across the United States (US) by recruiting experienced dairy cattle veterinarians to participate in either an online survey (Part I) or in-person focus groups (Part II). Survey results indicated variability in health condition management amongst dairy cattle veterinarians, and only 60% of serviced facilities have a written euthanasia protocol in place. Three main themes of euthanasia decision-making were identified across focus group discussions and included logistical, animal, and human Factors. In addition, participants frequently expressed frustration with protocol limitations and requirements. These results suggest the need for the development and implementation of science-based standards to improve cattle welfare on-farm by promoting consistency in euthanasia decision-making across the US dairy industry.
When dairy cattle become ill or injured to the extent that recovery is unlikely or impossible, on-farm euthanasia should be used as a tool to eliminate pain and suffering. Our study aimed to identify decision-making criteria and the most common factors considered by veterinarians when making and carrying out euthanasia decisions. Dairy cattle veterinarians were recruited to participate in an online survey (Part I, 61 surveys collected) or in one of three focus groups (Part II, 4–10 veterinarians/group, n = 22). Part I (survey): Surveyed veterinarians varied regarding health condition management and demonstrated a strong proclivity to treat compromised cattle, mirroring trends amongst dairy producers identified in previous research. Sixty percent of respondents indicated that most facilities for which they serve as the primary veterinarian have a written euthanasia protocol in place. Part II (focus groups): Three main themes about euthanasia decision-making (logistical, animal, and human) were identified from focus group discussions. Discussions focused primarily on logistical factors such as financial considerations and client/public perceptions. Development of specific standards for euthanasia, alongside interactive training programs for dairy veterinarians and producers are vital next steps to improving cattle welfare and consistency in euthanasia decision-making across the United States dairy industry. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal welfare; survey; cow; calf; heifer; euthanasia animal welfare; survey; cow; calf; heifer; euthanasia
MDPI and ACS Style

Wagner, B.K.; Cramer, M.C.; Fowler, H.N.; Varnell, H.L.; Dietsch, A.M.; Proudfoot, K.L.; Shearer, J.; Correa, M.; Pairis-Garcia, M.D. Determination of Dairy Cattle Euthanasia Criteria and Analysis of Barriers to Humane Euthanasia in the United States: The Veterinarian Perspective. Animals 2020, 10, 1051. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10061051

AMA Style

Wagner BK, Cramer MC, Fowler HN, Varnell HL, Dietsch AM, Proudfoot KL, Shearer J, Correa M, Pairis-Garcia MD. Determination of Dairy Cattle Euthanasia Criteria and Analysis of Barriers to Humane Euthanasia in the United States: The Veterinarian Perspective. Animals. 2020; 10(6):1051. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10061051

Chicago/Turabian Style

Wagner, Brooklyn K., Mary Caitlin Cramer, Heather N. Fowler, Hannah L. Varnell, Alia M. Dietsch, Kathryn L. Proudfoot, Jan Shearer, Maria Correa, and Monique D. Pairis-Garcia. 2020. "Determination of Dairy Cattle Euthanasia Criteria and Analysis of Barriers to Humane Euthanasia in the United States: The Veterinarian Perspective" Animals 10, no. 6: 1051. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani10061051

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