During the Cattle Industry Summer Conference last month in Denver, Ryan Ruppert, NCBA’s senior director for beef quality assurance (BQA), presented a recommended set of BQA veterinary procedures guidelines to the Cattle Health and Well Being Committee. The guidelines were developed by collaborative efforts of veterinarians, animal scientists, cattle-industry leaders and producers. They are not intended to be exclusive of any one specific technique over another.
Branding of cattle
Ear tagging, ear notching, tattooing and radio frequency identification devices are methods of identifying cattle. Hot-iron or freeze branding may be required or be the only practical method of permanently identifying cattle in some situations. If cattle are hot-iron or freeze branded, it should be accomplished quickly, expertly and with the proper equipment. BQA guidelines recommend branding only on the hip areas. Cattle should never be branded on the face or jaw.
Operators performing hot-iron or freeze branding procedures should seek the guidance of a veterinarian, be trained and competent in the procedure and be able to recognize the signs of complications. Consultation with a veterinarian should be possible if animal-health complications arise secondary to the performance of these procedures.
Castration of cattle
Castration of beef cattle is performed in many production systems to reduce inter-animal aggression, improve human safety and avoid the risk of unwanted pregnancies in the herd.
Methods of castration used in beef cattle include surgical removal of the testes, ischaemic methods, and crushing and disruption of the spermatic cord.
Where practical, cattle should be castrated before the age of 3 months, or at the first available handling opportunity beyond this age. The use of methods that promote the well-being and comfort of cattle should be encouraged. It is recommended that all animals not used for breeding purposes be castrated and allowed to heal before leaving their farm of origin.
Producers should seek the guidance of a veterinarian on the availability and advisability of analgesia or anesthesia for castration of beef cattle, particularly older animals.
Operators performing castration of beef cattle should be trained and competent in the procedure used and be able to recognize the signs of complications.
Humane euthanasia of cattle
Euthanasia should be utilized when an animal’s condition is such that additional treatment options will not be effective. In these cases, it is the only practical way to prevent unnecessary suffering. To that extent, it is the responsibility of all who own or work with livestock to have the proper equipment and knowledge to conduct this procedure effectively. Euthanasia is a Greek term meaning “good death.” In this context, its objectives are met when death is induced which causes a minimum of pain and/or distress to an animal. Avoidance of pain and distress requires that euthanasia techniques cause immediate loss of consciousness followed by cardiac and respiratory arrest that ultimately results in loss of brain function. Persons who perform this task must be technically proficient and have an understanding of the relevant anatomical landmarks and protocols used for humane euthanasia in animals.
Tail docking of beef cattle
Tail docking has been performed in beef cattle to prevent tail-tip necrosis in confinement operations. Research shows that increasing space per animal and proper bedding are effective means in preventing tail-tip necrosis. Therefore, it is not recommended for producers to dock the tails of beef cattle.