Dairy Calf and Heifer Association develops standards for animal welfare for dairy calves and heifers

The Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA) recently developed guidelines for animal welfare for dairy calves and heifers.

The Dairy Calf and Heifer Association (DCHA) recently developed a set of standards for animal welfare for dairy calves and heifers. The Gold Standards III  was released in September 2011 during the annual conference of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners.

The committee that created the Gold Standards III was comprised of dairy and calf growers (both contract growers and dairy producers), veterinarians, a calf and heifer management specialist, and industry representatives. The Animal Welfare Committee of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners and a panel of university experts also reviewed the standards. 

The standards represent these categories associated with raising dairy heifers:

  • Veterinarian Involvement
  • Colostrum Management
  • Housing
  • Nutrition
  • Animal Handling
  • Transportation
  • Vaccination
  • Drug Therapy
  • Parasite Control
  • Effective Medical Procedures and Supportive Care
  • Euthanasia

DCHA also has developed production standards for two age groupings of dairy calves and heifers. Gold Standards I cover issues related to calves from birth to 6 months of age. Gold Standards II pertain to heifers from 6 months to freshening.

Although Gold Standards III was developed with welfare as the main priority, there is some overlap with the production guidelines outlined in Gold Standards I and II. This overlap points out that ensuring optimal welfare of calves and heifers also is beneficial to successful production of herd replacements.

The three sets of Gold Standards from DCHA can be used by dairy producers and heifer growers to evaluate their current production and welfare practices. Goals for heifer raising programs also should be reviewed periodically. The DCHA Gold Standards may help to set realistic benchmarks for various aspects of herd replacement programs.

DCHA is dedicated to serving the dairy calf and heifer industry. It provides information, education and access to leading research and technology to help its members be more profitable.

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