A first place to start with your clients on improving cattle welfare is working with compromised (disabled, sick, lame, high-risk) cattle. A great resource is the fairly new Caring for Compromised Cattle manual and poster which are aimed at producers to assist them with improving the condition of cattle on the farm prior to marketing. The materials were developed using Beef Checkoff dollars and are available at no charge to producers and veterinarians. The information was a collaboration between the Iowa Beef Industry Council, Iowa Beef Center and the Iowa Veterinary Medical Association.

The 21-page booklet includes information and color photographs for body condition scoring beef and dairy cattle, BQA marketing code of ethics, steps to prevent compromised animals, transportation of animals and definitions. The poster includes decision-making steps and descriptions to prevent downer cows (prevention, observation, treatment, separation, transport and euthanasia). It also describes which cattle are transport or downer candidates, and recom-mendations on handling downer cattle.

“We have distributed nearly all of the first 3,500 copies from the first printing,” says Terry Engelken, DVM, MS, Iowa State University. “They have gone to veterinary practices, sale barns, individual producers, as well as veterinary and animal science students. From the veterinary and veterinary student standpoint, the results have been very positive.

“What has been gratifying to me is the level of awareness for welfare issues has gone up dramatically,” Engelken says. “You hear welfare concerns being talked about and strategies to address these issues being discussed much more commonly than in the past. I have used the booklet and poster as a teaching tool in some of my classes to get students to understand that they will be on the front line of these issues. I think that the materials have been successful in raising awareness among veterinarians about the central role that we play in producing a wholesome product in a humane manner.”

The following are definitions fromCaring for Compromised Cattle:

Animal welfare - Animals must be thriving and free from disease, injury and malnutrition. Welfare implies freedom from suffering in the sense of prolonged pain, fear, distress, discomfort, hunger, thirst and other negative experiences. Short-term negative states, such a short-term pain, hunger and anxiety, are virtually inevitable in animal life, and the difference between acceptable and unacceptable standards will remain a source of debate.

At-risk or compromised animal - An animal with reduced capacity to withstand the stress of living or transportation due to injury, fatigue, infirmity, poor health, distress, very young or old age, impending birth or any other cause.

Distress - Distress may include: lack of food, water and shelter, lack of proper care of sick or injured animals, pain or suffering due to abuse or unnecessary hardship, deprivation or neglect.

Euthanasia - A humane acceptable method of killing an animal with minimal fear or anxiety. The chosen method must be reliable, irreversible, simple, safe and rapid.

Pain - An unpleasant sensation occurring in varying degrees of severity as a result of injury or disease. Signs of pain and suffering may include one or more of the following:

  • Unwillingness to rise to its feet
  • Unwillingness to walk
  • Reluctant to put a leg on the ground and bear weight
  • Mouth open, breathing fast
  • Arched back and abdomen tucked up
  • Head down, ears drooping
  • Unwilling to eat or drink
  • Standing separate from group, not following group
  • No response when touched or prodded

Suffering - An unpleasant physical state associated with more-than-minimal pain or distress.

Unfit - An animal that is sick, injured, disabled or fatigued, is unfit and cannot be moved without avoidable suffering. This animal must not be loaded for transport.

To order a free Caring for Compromised Cattle manual and poster call 515-296-2305 or e-mail brian@iabeef.org.