In many European countries, milk production per cow has more than doubled in the last 40 years. The increase in production has been accompanied by declining ability to reproduce, increasing incidence of health problems, and declining longevity in modern dairy cows. Genetic selection for increased milk yield increasingly is viewed as increasing profit at the expense of reducing animal welfare. The economic future of the dairy industry is related directly to public acceptance of its breeding and production practices. It is important to the dairy industry that welfare problems should be addressed before there is widespread condemnation of breeding and management practices. A new breeding goal aimed at improving fitness and tolerance of metabolic stress is necessary to prevent the decrease in the quality of life of dairy cows and instead, perhaps, enhance it.
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Vol. 34 • No. 4