Alternatives to cow/calf separation rejected by consumers
New research confirms consumers have negative perceptions about early cow-calf separation.
Hannah Thompson-Weeman with the Animal Agriculture Alliance says the study led by researchers at the University of British Columbia puts data behind a practice animal extremist groups tend to focus on.
“This study looked at several different possible methods for handing dairy calves and ultimately, they found that people felt the most positively toward a system where calves were not separated,” she explains.
Thompson-Weeman says any management system other than keeping calves with their mothers before weaning would likely have low acceptance among consumers.
“How do we balance our social license to operate, consumer interests, and questions with the science behind the practices that we employ?” she asks.
She encourages farmers to remain transparent about health benefits to the animals, the planet, and people when discussing the practice.
The study, published in the Journal of Dairy Science, compared attitudes on systems where calves were not separated from the cow to having the calf separated and individually housed, separated and group-housed, or separated and kept with a foster cow.
Researchers say there are limited studies on cow and calf health benefits of separation, and more are needed to analyze the impacts in both management styles as well.
Thompson-Weeman spoke during a National Milk Producers Federation webinar on better understanding consumer perceptions of animal welfare Tuesday.