A study by Craig McConnell at Colorado State University found that although producers try to assign a cause of death, they are only accurate about 50 percent of the time. Producers were certainly more accurate in cases that involve more obvious causes, such as injuries resulting in death or severe disease states. But that meant that they were less accurate where an obvious cause was not apparent.
Garry reported that 50 percent of cow death losses are a result of causes that could be reduced through management changes. However, a lack of actionable information about the causes of death keeps those management changes from being made in a timely manner.
Based on this information, MSU Extension recommends that dairy producers take several actions.
- Assess potential problem cows and cull sooner.
- Keep good records of death losses and add both herd changes and cow information in those records that may help to identify patterns.
- Talk with your veterinarian about cow losses and decide on a plan to necropsy a percentage of animals that die and to target those that present more of a mystery.
- Make cattle death a time of learning for employees so that they can be more aware of factors that lead to deaths.
Future articles will discuss records, necropsy and education of employees in greater detail. Reducing cattle deaths by changes in management and actions will happen only when dairy owners place a higher priority on it. The time has come to make cow deaths a priority on all livestock operations.