A-11/23 Interrelationships between cows, calves, and humans in cow-calf contact systems—An interview study among Norwegian dairy farmers

Forfattere: Juni Rosann E. Johanssen, Gunn-Turid Kvam, Brit Logstein og Mette Vaarst

In recent years, the common dairy farming practice of early separation of dam and calf has received increased attention. Our aim was to explore how Norwegian dairy farmers with cow-calf contact (CCC) systems apply these systems in practice, and how they experience and perceive the interrelationships between cows and calves and humans within these systems. We conducted in-depth interviews with 17 farmers from 12 dairy farms and analyzed responses inductively, inspired by the grounded theory approach. The farmers in our study practiced their CCC systems differently from each other and had varying as well as common perceptions about these systems. Calves' intake of colostrum was not seen as a challenge, regardless of practice. The farmers generally perceived that any aggression shown by cows toward humans was merely an exhibition of cows' natural protective instinct. However, when the farmers had good relationships with their cows and the cows felt safe around them, the farmers could handle the calves and build good relationships with them as well. The farmers experienced the calves learning a lot from their dams. Most of the farmers' dairy housing systems were not adapted for CCC, and CCC systems could require modification in terms of placing greater emphasis on observing the animals and making adjustments in the barn and around milking. Some thought having CCC on pasture was the best and most natural, while others were reluctant to have CCC on pasture. The farmers encountered some challenges with stressed animals after later separation, but several had found methods to minimize stress. Generally, they had different opinions about workload, but agreed they spent less time on calf feeding. We found that these farmers were thriving with their CCC systems; they all described positive emotions around seeing cows and their calves together. Animal welfare and natural behavior were important to the farmers.

Journal of Dairy Science, https://doi.org/10.3168/jds.2022-22999

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