Contextual herd factors associated with cow culling risk in Québec dairy herds: A multilevel analysis

D Haine, H Delgado, R Cue, A Sewalem, K Wade, R Lacroix, D Lefebvre, J Arsenault, É Bouchard, J Dubuc

Several health disorders, such as milk fever, displaced abomasum, and mastitis, as well as impaired reproductive performance, are known risk factors for the removal of affected cows from a dairy herd. While cow-level risk factors are well documented in the literature, herd-level associations have been less frequently investigated. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of cow- and herd-level determinants on variations in culling risk in Québec dairy herds: whether herd influences a cow’s culling risk. For this, we assessed the influence of herd membership on cow culling risk according to displaced abomasum, milk fever, and retained placenta. A retrospective longitudinal study was conducted on data from dairy herds in the Province of Québec, Canada, by extracting health information events from the dairy herd health management software used by most Québec dairy producers and their veterinarians. Data were extracted for all lactations starting between January 1st and December 31st, 2010. Using multilevel logistic regression, we analysed a total of 10,529 cows from 201 herds that met the inclusion criteria. Milk fever and displaced abomasum were demonstrated to increase the cow culling risk. A minor general herd effect was found for the culling risk (i.e. an intra-class correlation of 1.0% and median odds ratio [MOR] of 1.20). The proportion of first lactation cows was responsible for this significant, but weak herd effect on individual cow culling risk, after taking into account the cow-level factors. On the other hand, the herd’s average milk production was a protective factor. The planning and management of forthcoming replacement animals has to be taken into consideration when assessing cow culling risks and herd culling rates.

In Preventive Veterinary Medicine