Animal Welfare and Economics in the Dairy Industry: Is cow-calf contact the future of Norwegian milk production?
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- Master Thesis 
In recent years, there has been an increased focus on animal welfare and sustainability in livestock production. In the case of dairy production, the practice of separating cow and calf at birth has been increasingly questioned by stakeholders. Early separation can be seen as a sacrifice of animals' naturalness in favor of human consumption, and thus associated with poor animal welfare. Today, only a minority of calves in milk production are allowed to have contact with their mother. To ensure sustainability of the dairy industry, listening to stakeholders' concerns is vital. Thus, knowledge of consequences and resources needed to succeed with animal welfare initiatives will be important for the industry. The aim of this thesis is to investigate how prolonged cow and calf contact (CCC) can be a feasible option for Norwegian dairy farmers, viewed from an economic perspective. In order to investigate economic consequences of CCC, this study performs a lasso regression on production data from 94 farms. Survey data from l 038 dairy farmers is used to find main barriers to adopting the CCC-practice, and a SEM is conducted to explain the level of perceived barriers. Our findings indicate that CCC-farmers have a lower quota filling than farms without CCC, resulting in a lower income from milk. For a farmer with an average herd size of 30 cows, the decreased milk yield corresponds to the yearly production of one dairy cow. Additionally, CCC requires changes in the cow barn, which may result in additional investments for the farmer. Findings also suggest positive economic consequences, such as increased income from calves and decreased workload for the farmer. Non-monetary consequences of CCC are increased wellbeing and flexibility for the farmer. Thus, there are various factors affecting the economic success of the production system. Related to perceived barriers, the results show that poorer financial performance, the cow barn layout and increased workload are the main barriers to adopt the CCC-practice. Findings also suggest that the level of perceived barriers can be affected by the beliefs and values of the farmer. The findings highlight important challenges to be solved for facilitating increased animal welfare in the dairy industry.