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It was the objective of this study to analyse the effect of various degrees of
dystocia on production and survival of dairy cows.
A case control study was carried out including 261 calvings that were attended
by a veterinarian of a practice in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. Cases were
classified into three categories, namely mild dystocia (MD), severe dystocia
(SD) and caesarean section (CS). For every case a control was chosen from the
same farm and matched for calving month, breed and parity. Cases and controls
were compared concerning their risk of removal from the herd, the probability
and timing of conception, their milk production data and calf survival.
Mild cases of dystocia had only limited effects on production data, survival of
the cows and fertility. Compared to controls, more SD (28.1 vs 25.8 %) and CS
(30.3 vs. 15.8 %) cows were culled until 200 days in milk and less cows
conceived within the same time span (SD: 48.3 vs. 61.8 %; CS: 48.7 vs. 69.7
%). Apart from a mild depression on milk yield of the first milk test day, there
were no obvious effects of severe cases of dystocia on test day production while
CS cows had a significantly lower production than their controls during the first
months of lactation. The proportion of dead calves was significantly higher in
cows with dystocia compared to their controls. However, the difference to the
controls was significantly lower in CS cows than in the other two groups.
Economically, the difference between cows with dystocia and their controls
increased with the degree of dystocia (MD 58.68 €; SD 130.51 €; CS 236.61 €).
The data underline the importance of prevention of dystocia by management and
breeding for the economics of dairy farms.