Much attention is being paid to the higher cost of beef, yet sales data and market research show demand for beef remains strong. Beef continues to be a cornerstone of the retail meat case, it’s featured on almost every restaurant menu, and Americans continue to purchase beef, even at higher prices.
The following set of BQA Guidelines represents recommendations and is the collaborative efforts of veterinarians, animal scientists, cattle industry leaders, production managers and producers to put forward a consensus opinion for achieving optimal outcomes. It should be understood that several different applications and techniques exist for the performance of many of these procedures. This set of guidelines is not intended to be exclusive of any one specific technique over another. These guidelines focus on the animal and are aimed to satisfy scientifically valid and feasible approaches to meeting cattle health and welfare needs.
Castration of Cattle
Castration of beef cattle is performed in many production systems to reduce inter-animal aggression and injuries, 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, ischemic methods, and crushing and disruption of the spermatic cord.
Where practical, cattle should be castrated before the age of three months, or at the first available handling opportunity beyond this age. The use of method(s) 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 ever leaving their farm of origin.
Producers may seek guidance from a veterinarian on the availability and advisability of analgesia or anesthesia for castration of beef cattle, particularly in 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.
Dehorning of Cattle (including disbudding)
Cattle that are naturally horned are commonly dehorned in order to reduce animal injuries and improve human safety. The selection of polled cattle is an alternative for horn management.
Where practical, cattle should be dehorned while horn development is still at the horn bud stage, or at the first available handling opportunity beyond this age. This is because the procedure involves less tissue trauma.
Methods of dehorning (disbudding) at the horn bud stage include removal of the horn buds with a knife or dehorning spoon, thermal cautery of the horn buds, or the application of chemical paste to cauterize the horn buds.
Producers may seek guidance from a veterinarian on the availability and advisability of analgesia or anesthesia for dehorning of beef cattle, particularly in older animals, where horn development is more advanced. Operators performing dehorning of cattle should be trained and competent in the procedure, and be able to recognize the signs of complications.
Branding of Cattle
Branding, ear-tagging, ear-notching, tattooing, and radio frequency identification devices (RFID) are methods of identifying cattle. Hot iron or freeze branding may be the only practical method of permanently identifying cattle. If cattle are hot iron or freeze branded, it should be accomplished quickly, expertly and with the proper equipment. BQA guidelines recommend branding on the hip area.
Cattle should never be branded on the face or jaw. Operators performing hot iron or freeze branding procedures may seek the guidance of a veterinarian, and should be trained and competent in the procedure, and be able to recognize the signs of complications.
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.