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Dairy Cow Mortality

​All dairy cows eventually leave the farm. Ideally they leave as healthy animals, either being sold for production or sold for slaughter when they are no longer productive. Some cows die on the farm. Dairy producers who recognized their on-farm losses were higher than normal approached ILM for help in understanding why these losses were occurring. Looking at dairy records it became clear that there was a wide variation in death losses between farms, but also showing that typical death loss percentages had risen over the last several decades.

On-farm death of adult dairy cows is a significant problem for both economic and animal welfare reasons. These losses and their causes are not carefully monitored or evaluated on most dairies leaving producers and veterinarians without the information needed to manage them. The reasons cows die are multiple and complex, necessitating an improved approach to diagnosis, information management and analysis.

Below are several articles written for dairy producer publications that encapsulate our work:

We have approached this problem from multiple directions. We have studied specific reasons why cows die on farms by performing necropsy of dead cows and identifying causes of death. Below are a few select publications on the subject:

McConnel CS, Garry FB, Lombard JE, Kidd JA, Hill AE, Gould DH. A necropsy-based descriptive study of dairy cow deaths on a Colorado dairy. J Dairy Sci, 92:1954-1962, 2009.
Garry, F., McConnel C. Why cows die on dairies. Proc Am Assoc Bovine Pract 45th annual meeting, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 2012, pp 82-86.
Additionally, we have developed alternative ways to evaluate death losses on farms:

McConnel CS, Garry FB, Hill AE, Lombard JE, Gould DH. Conceptual modeling of postmortem evaluation findings to describe dairy cow deaths. J. Dairy Sci, 93:373-386, 2010.

We have studied the epidemiology of death losses to look for association of high rates of loss with other herd and management features.
McConnel CS, Lombard JE, Wagner BA, Garry FB. Evaluation of factors associated with increased dairy cow mortality on U.S. dairy operations. J Dairy Sci, 91:1423-1432, 2008.
We have developed improved methods for identifying cause of death in order to allocate the losses to specific things the dairy can change to improve animal health and welfare and assure minimal losses. We have developed a Dairy cow certificate of Death for this purpose and also a coding mechanism that producers can use to monitor causes of death.
You can open a brief description of the rationale for a Death Certificate, a copy of the Death certificate, and the coding chart for use in tracking death losses plus culling/removals here:
We believe all producers should monitor overall death percentages, perform necropsy on dead cows to determine cause of death, and track these causes to identify improvements that can be made on farm.