CANADA - As of January 1, changes to the Canadian Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle require beef producers to provide pain control during painful procedures such as castration and dehorning.
Producers must use pain control, in consultation with a veterinarian, when they de-horn or castrate animals older than nine months. The requirement will change in January 2018 to all cattle castrated older than six months.
The Code of Practice also recommends other practices that will help in pain management, such as castrating or disbudding calves as young as possible, preferably by the age of three months and before weaning.
It’s something that most producers are already doing, said Dr John Campbell, of the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, who also served on the science advisory board for the new Code of Practice.
“Research has shown there’s a lot less stress, and a lot less pain when painful procedures are done at an early age. So the first aim is to do it early, which most producers are doing, and then to phase in pain control as well.”
The Code of Practice recommends painful procedures be performed by competent personnel using proper, clean, and well maintained tools, and producers seek guidance from their veterinarian regarding optimum castration methods, timing, and pain control options. Establishing an ongoing working relationship with a licensed practicing veterinarian, and developing a strategy for disease prevention and herd health is another strong recommendation.
Other priority welfare issues deal with feedlot health and morbidity, weaning methods and environmental and housing issues, including new requirements around mud and snow as a water source.
Snow as a water source is fine as long as there is an adequate supply of clean, loose snow, but not for lactating or weak cattle with a body condition score less than 2.5 out of 5, or any cattle that don’t have access to optimal feed resources.
Many producers already use pain control
The National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) released the revised Code of Practice in August 2013 and public pressure has driven many of the changes.
The Code of Practice revisions have been agreed upon up by scientists, industry representatives and the public about how we should be practising,” said Dr Campbell.
“They are about animal welfare and public perception of painful procedures, and it’s just another way of showing to the public that 99.9 per cent of Canadian beef producers are doing the right thing because they care about their animals.”
“Many producers are already using pain control products because they believe it’s the right thing to do,” said Dr Campbell. “The public thinks it’s the right thing to do too, and a majority of producers aren’t going to have any problem with the new revisions.”
Pain control products do add to production costs, but it may be a cost required to sustain the industry, said Dr Campbell.
“It a cost that doesn’t provide a huge economic advantage to producers, but it makes our business look good to the public, and we probably can’t stand back and say we can’t afford to do it,” he said.
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