The objectives of this study were to obtain information about animal health challenges for dairy farmers of small- and medium-sized herds and about the fields in which consultancy services should be improved. The hyperlink to an internet-based survey was sent to 9,021 farmers in Austria. The survey included questions about the participants and their farms, about who is consulting with the farmers with regard to animal health, feeding, sire selection, construction of barns and animal husbandry, about animal health issues farmers find most challenging, and about their demands for improved consultancy services. The questionnaire was completed anonymously. Analyses were stratified by milk yield (categorized) and whether farmers worked full-time or part-time. The overall response rate was 11.3% (n=1,018). The majority of farms kept less than 20 cows (54.0%) or 20 to 50 cows (40.1%). With regard to animal health, the veterinarian was the most important consultant for the majority of farmers (84.6%). On issues related to feeding, sire selection, and stable construction, the veterinarian was seen as a less important consultant than specialists in these fields (20.4, 11.6, and 7.9% suggested the veterinarian as an important consultant in these areas). The survey indicated that reproductive disorders, udder disease, poor conception rate, lameness, and calf diarrhea represent the most important challenges to farmers. Of these, concerns about calf diarrhea were affected by milk yield of the herds and management. More high- than low-yielding farms (11.7 vs. 6.4%) and more full-time than part-time managed herds (9.6 vs.4.3%) regarded calf diarrhea as an important problem. Farmers would welcome improved consultancy with regard to fertility, feeding, and sire selection. The results indicated which animal health issues farmers find particularly challenging and displayed which areas farmers require improved consultancy services. Veterinarians and organizations offering consultancy should take the results into consideration in improving or adapting their advisory services.
Animals Austria Cattle Consultants/statistics & numerical data* Dairying/methods* Female Humans Surveys and Questionnaires Veterinarians/statistics & numerical data*