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Erratum published on 14 October 2021, see Animals 2021, 11(10), 2958.
Review

Keeping Dairy Cows for Longer: A Critical Literature Review on Dairy Cow Longevity in High Milk-Producing Countries

1
Department of Animal Science, McGill University, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC H9X 3V9, Canada
2
Department of Health Management, Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island, Charlottetown, PE C1A 4P3, Canada
3
Lactanet, Valacta, 555 Boul des Anciens-Combattants, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, QC H9X 3R4, Canada
4
Département des Sciences Animales, Université Laval, Québec, QC G1V 0A6, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Clive J. C. Phillips
Animals 2021, 11(3), 808; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030808
Received: 15 January 2021 / Revised: 3 March 2021 / Accepted: 9 March 2021 / Published: 13 March 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Special Issue for IECA2020)
The ability of farms to produce milk sustainably is closely related to dairy cow longevity, i.e., the length of productive life. However, longevity is a very complex feature that depends on all the aspects of the lifespan of a cow and there is no standard definition nor metric to measure it. Measuring longevity is important because it influences the profitability and the environmental impact of farms as well as the welfare of the animals. The objectives of this paper were to review metrics used to measure longevity and describe its status among high milk-producing countries. Increasing dairy cow longevity would imply that an animal has an early age at first calving and a long and profitable productive life. Combining age at first calving, length of productive life, and margin over all (available) costs provides a complete evaluation of longevity. This paper also shows that dairy cow longevity has decreased in most high milk-producing countries over time, which confirm the concerns voiced by the dairy industry and other stakeholders. Increasing cow longevity would reduce health costs and increase cow profitability while improving both animal welfare and quality of life, contributing to a more sustainable dairy industry.
The ability of dairy farmers to keep their cows for longer could positively enhance the economic performance of the farms, reduce the environmental footprint of the milk industry, and overall help in justifying a sustainable use of animals for food production. However, there is little published on the current status of cow longevity and we hypothesized that a reason may be a lack of standardization and an over narrow focus of the longevity measure itself. The objectives of this critical literature review were: (1) to review metrics used to measure dairy cow longevity; (2) to describe the status of longevity in high milk-producing countries. Current metrics are limited to either the length of time the animal remains in the herd or if it is alive at a given time. To overcome such a limitation, dairy cow longevity should be defined as an animal having an early age at first calving and a long productive life spent in profitable milk production. Combining age at first calving, length of productive life, and margin over all costs would provide a more comprehensive evaluation of longevity by covering both early life conditions and the length of time the animal remains in the herd once it starts to contribute to the farm revenues, as well as the overall animal health and quality of life. This review confirms that dairy cow longevity has decreased in most high milk-producing countries over time and its relationship with milk yield is not straight forward. Increasing cow longevity by reducing involuntary culling would cut health costs, increase cow lifetime profitability, improve animal welfare, and could contribute towards a more sustainable dairy industry while optimizing dairy farmers’ efficiency in the overall use of resources available. View Full-Text
Keywords: animal welfare; cattle husbandry; cow longevity; productive lifespan; profitability; sustainability animal welfare; cattle husbandry; cow longevity; productive lifespan; profitability; sustainability
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MDPI and ACS Style

Dallago, G.M.; Wade, K.M.; Cue, R.I.; McClure, J.T.; Lacroix, R.; Pellerin, D.; Vasseur, E. Keeping Dairy Cows for Longer: A Critical Literature Review on Dairy Cow Longevity in High Milk-Producing Countries. Animals 2021, 11, 808. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030808

AMA Style

Dallago GM, Wade KM, Cue RI, McClure JT, Lacroix R, Pellerin D, Vasseur E. Keeping Dairy Cows for Longer: A Critical Literature Review on Dairy Cow Longevity in High Milk-Producing Countries. Animals. 2021; 11(3):808. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030808

Chicago/Turabian Style

Dallago, Gabriel M., Kevin M. Wade, Roger I. Cue, J T. McClure, René Lacroix, Doris Pellerin, and Elsa Vasseur. 2021. "Keeping Dairy Cows for Longer: A Critical Literature Review on Dairy Cow Longevity in High Milk-Producing Countries" Animals 11, no. 3: 808. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11030808

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