How does the Finnish dairy producer perceive and manage disbudding pain in calves? (#213)
Disbudding, the removal of a calf's horn bud, a common practice in dairy production, causes reduced welfare in calves. Local anaesthesia and NSAIDs are effective for treating disbudding-related pain. The producer play a key role if the calves are disbudded and medicated. Disbudding pain in calves often remains untreated. The aim was to study the producer perceptions about disbudding-related pain, the perceived need for pain medication before disbudding, and how these perceptions affect the use of pain medication before disbudding. A questionnaire was sent to 1000 Finnish dairy producers (response rate: 45%). Producers graded their perceptions about disbudding on a five-point Likert scale. Differences in the perception of pain and in the need for pain medication between different barn types (tie stalls or free stalls) and farms with a heard health agreement with a vet or not were evaluated. Furthermore, we tested for differences between farms that report they always, sometimes or never have a vet medicate calves before disbudding. Kruskal-Wallis and Mann-Whitney tests (using Bonferroni corrections when appropriate) were used. Disbudding was practiced on 72% of the farms. Producers who ranked disbudding-related pain and need for pain medication higher called a vet to medicate calves before disbudding more often than those that valued pain and need for pain medication lower. Of producers who disbudded calves on their farms; 69% estimated that disbudding caused severe pain, 63% estimated that pain medication during disbudding is important, and 45% always had a vet to medicate the calves before disbudding. Producers with a herd healthcare agreement estimated disbudding-related pain to be higher and had a vet medicate calves more than producers without. Producers with tie stalls and who did not disbud valued pain medication before disbudding higher than producers with free stalls and who did disbudding. To raise the awareness about the calf welfare it is important to educate the dairy producer about the disbudding procedure, the calfÂ´s pain and the pain medication.