Animal Science, Department of


Document Type



Olsen et al. | Broken tails in Holstein dairy cattle. JDS Communications 2023; 4:265–268. https: / / doi .org/ 10 .3168/ jdsc .2022 -0254


Open access.


Dairy cows are regularly handled when moved to the milking parlor and during other routine procedures. Low-stress handling methods are important in avoiding negative welfare states for dairy cattle. Tail twisting is used by some handlers to prompt cattle movement. However, when used inappropriately with excessive force, tail twisting can lead to a broken tail. The aim of this cross-sectional study was to determine cow-level factors that may be associated with the prevalence of broken tails in dairy cattle. A subset of 229 Holstein dairy cows (68 primiparous and 161 multiparous) at a single dairy were assessed for broken tails from the larger herd (N = 1,356). Tails were visually assessed for the presence of fractures by a single trained observer. A tail was classified as unfractured if it laid straight when at rest and as fractured if there were deviations in the tail when at rest. Poisson regression models were used to identify associations between cow-level characteristics and broken tails and compute adjusted prevalence ratios (PR). The prevalence of broken tails was 45.8% (105/229) at the time of assessment. Multiparous cows had a greater prevalence of broken tails than primiparous cows [PR = 1.70; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.11–2.59]. The prevalence of broken tails was also greater for cows treated for mastitis ≥2 times than cows treated once for mastitis (PR = 1.84; 95% CI: 1.08–3.13) and cows never treated for mastitis (PR = 1.36; 95% CI: 1.02–1.82). Results from this study indicated that the longer a cow was present on the farm and the more times she was treated for mastitis, the more likely she was to experience a broken tail. These findings suggest that the relationship between dairy cow handling, health, and welfare is a multifactorial issue.