The 2nd International Symposium on Beef Cattle Welfare was held May 19-21 at Kansas State University, where about 200 scientists, veterinarians, ranchers and other beef industry members were in attendance with another almost 800 throughout the U.S. and some foreign countries joining via a live webcast. On hand were also 17 of the 19 members of the North American Food Animal Well-being Commission for Beef (NAFAWC-Beef) — which includes world-renowned experts in animal well-being. Those members are prestigious veterinarians, animal handling experts and organizational representatives.

Dan Thomson, DVM, PhD, director of the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University, says the difference between this year’s symposium and the first one in 2008 is maturity and acceptance. “In 2008 we talked about who was out to get us and groups outside of us, and who was going to make us do what. In 2010, we talked about issues. We talk about confidence in an industry. We know we do a dang good job of raising cattle and we do everything at a very high level. But we want to get better every day. We have more openness, more transparency. We are focusing on the future and outcome- based measures for change.

“Social responsibility is not just animal well-being, food safety and food security,” Thomson continues. “All of them are pillars of social responsibility. Nobody cares more about cattle than the people In the beef industry. That’s where the rubber meets the road, with the people who are doing it every day. We have a lot of people and cattle counting on us.”

Thomson will serve as a co-chair of NAFAWC-Beef, and says the Commission is an independent voice to advance evidence-based and practical improvements in the care and well-being of North American beef cattle. “We want to be ethically grounded, unbiased, outcomes based and practical,” Thomson says.

NAFAWC-Beef concerns include:

  • Environmental conditions for animals
  • Painful procedures
  • Weaning/preconditioning/bovine respiratory disease
  • Transportation
  • Cattle handling
  • Disposal of chronically ill animals
  • Euthanasia techniques and timing
  • Dystocia in feeder heifers

The NAFAWC-Beef members believe issues where there is considerable research and can be resolved with producer outreach include cattle handling, transportation, preconditioning/weaning; timing to market of culled animals; and pain control.