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Induction of parturition

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Ratification Date: 26 Sep 2013

 Policy

Induction of parturition (calving induction) in dairy herds must only be undertaken for therapeutic reasons such as mis-mated heifers, downer pre-calving cows, high risk dystocia or malnutrition cases.

It should not be used to synchronise calvings in seasonally calving dairy herds, and AVA supports the phasing out of this practice by the dairy industry by 2022.

Background

Calving induction has traditionally been used in seasonally calving dairy herds to synchronise cows to calve within a particular time frame. However, welfare issues can arise for both the cows and calves if calves are induced prematurely.1 

Listed below are the known health risks to cow and calf associated with calving induction.

Risks to cow:

  • Immunosuppression and peracute infections due to the use of long acting corticosteroids
  • Increased risk of clinical mastitis
  • Increased risk of metabolic disease
  • Increased incidence of retained foetal membranes

Risks to calf:

  • Increased incidence of calf mortality
  • Lowered calf immunity
  • Decreased calf growth rates

In 2015, following meetings between farmers, representatives from the Australian Cattle Veterinarians, dairy veterinarians and dairy processors, the dairy industry agreed to phase out routine calving induction nationally.2

In 2016, according to the Dairy Australia Animal Husbandry Survey, approximately 0.75% of cows nationally were induced. The targets are regularly reviewed and set by a Steering Committee which includes dairy farmers, representatives from the Australian Cattle Veterinarians, Dairy Australia and the Australian Dairy Products Federation. The dairy industry maximum target for routine calving induction in a herd has declined from 12% in 2017 to 8% in 2019. Annual limits will be progressively reduced until no routine calving induction is undertaken. The industry has set 2022 as the deadline for complete phase-out of routine induction.

A phased reduction approach was adopted as this approach worked successfully in New Zealand where the practice was banned following a 6 year reduction process. 2 An immediate ban would have resulted in increased animal welfare concerns in seasonal calving dairy herds. 1

During the phasing out period, induction should be performed in accordance with guidelines prepared by the Australian Cattle Veterinarians. 1

Recommendations

Induction of parturition should only be undertaken for therapeutic reasons

The AVA supports the phasing out of the practice by the Australian dairy industry

 References

  1. Australian Cattle Veterinarians. Induction of parturition guidelines. 2013

https://www.ava.com.au/siteassets/group-member-resources/cattle-group/resources/acv-member-publications/acv_induction_parturition_guidelines_2013.pdf

  1. Dairy Australia. Routine Calving induction. New Industry targets 2018-2019 Q and A’s.

https://www.dairyaustralia.com.au/-/media/dairyaustralia/documents/farm/animal-care/animal-welfare/cow-welfare/routine-calving-induction--201819-new-industry-targets.pdf?la=en&hash=B5A581F717C0B54E205CD5CD42EE3641097435F6

Purpose

To support the dairy industry’s decision to phase out routine calving induction.

Ratification date: 6 March 2020