On-farm mortality is the unwanted loss of animals through unassisted death and euthanasia. Mortality among dairy cows, or calves, constitutes a problem both in terms of financial losses due to the value of the dead animal, decreased production and extra labour involved and compromised animal welfare because of potential suffering before death or euthanasia.

A rise in the mortality among a group of cows or calves may indicate sub-optimal health and inadequate welfare. Mortality among dairy herds may therefore be a relevant measure of animal welfare.

Valuable information

When an animal is removed from the farm records it is useful to add a reason for removal. The common causes of death are recorded as; empty, abortion, calving trouble, high somatic cell count, mastitis, udder problems, lameness, injury, poor milk production, BVD, facial eczema, other diseases, or unknown.

Health problems need to be identified early enough and treated properly to promote an optimal outcome. If there are good records of the reasons that cows die or are culled then there are opportunities to implement modified or improved preventative measures to decrease disease and death.

Determining the cause of death provides invaluable information for preventing future deaths and improving herd health.

How to improve

If there are any concerns around cow or calf mortality rates on farm, work with your veterinarian to determine the underlying causes, make plans to reduce the risk and monitor outcomes and trends.

Where to go for further information?