Calf management practices, animal welfare and the social sustainability of the dairy industry

PI: Albert Boaitey


Boaitey is an assistant professor of agricultural economics who teaches agricultural price and marketing courses. His research is focused on the economics of livestock production and consumption.

Changes in consumer preferences, the emergence of substitute products, and the increased role of health, environmental and farm animal welfare considerations in food choice poses significant challenges to the US dairy community. One of the most important yet controversial farm animal welfare issues facing the industry are concerns about current calf management practices. Specifically, the separation of calves from cows and how calves are housed post separation. While producers and other industry experts favor cow-calf separation, data from many consumer surveys suggest the opposite. Previous work also suggests that consumers prefer group housing to individual housing methods. However, the extent to which housing choice addresses consumer concerns about calf separation is unknown. Most importantly, the role of concerns about calf management in consumer dairy product choice decision has not been previously addressed. There may be creative ways through which farmers can address these concerns to ensure the long-term financial and social sustainability of the dairy industry. Using data from consumer and farmer surveys, we will analyze perceptions relating to calf management under different information treatments. The intended outcomes include an increased understanding of perception and knowledge gaps between consumers and farmers, increased farmers’ understanding of consumer perspectives and increased adoption of incremental animal welfare improvements by dairy farmers. This research will be conducted in collaboration with Sylvia Kehoe, professor of animal and food science.

Sylvia Kehoe