Using Hormones to Manage Dairy Cow Fertility

Helen M. Higgins, Eamonn Ferguson , Robert F. Smith , Martin J. Green - PLOS One

Type: Research Paper
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

An interesting read about veterinarians thoughts on hormone use in dairy cattle. An insight into the vet mind!

The clinical and ethical beliefs of veterinary practitioners

What is the problem?

Due to the decline in dairy cow fertility, hormones are increasingly being used to manage reproduction in the herd. In Europe, these are prescription only, giving veterinarians a central role in the use of these. Researchers from the University of Nottingham and the University of Liverpool investigated the beliefs of veterinarians when it comes to the use of hormones, and gathered data on the current prescription practices.

What did the research involve?

Veterinarians who provide health care to dairy cattle in England were recruited and given a survey. There were 93 responses, and data was analysed using various qualitative and quantitative statistical analysis. Data was collected in 2011.

What were the key findings?

It was generally agreed that the use of hormones increases reproduction and profitability of the farm. It was also agreed ‘that if farmers are able to tackle management issues contributing to poor oestrus expression, then over a five year period these outcomes would both improve, relative to using hormones instead’. It was stated that if management practices were addressed, veterinary practice profits would go down, but overall herd genetic selection for fertility and welfare would improve.  Where there are no efforts to address underlying management problems, hormone long-term routine use at the start of breeding for timing artificial insemination or inducing oestrus was judged ‘‘unacceptable’’ by 69% and 48% of practitioners. However, if a suitable period of time has been allowed to pass to observe natural oestrus, over 90% of practitioners thought the use of hormones was acceptable.

Final Comment

The research presented here offers insight and discussion into veterinary belief and ethics, and suggests strategies for decreasing use of hormones and professional conduct for veterinarians.

2013 - United Kingdom - Helen M. Higgins, Eamonn Ferguson , Robert F. Smith , Martin J. Green - PLOS One
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