NCBA Have Their Say on Cattle Welfare

US - Cattlemen nationwide take animal welfare seriously and personally. According to the National Cattlemen's Association, it is a national expectation that cattle are treated humanely throughout the beef production chain.
calendar icon 10 March 2008
clock icon 3 minute read

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is calling on all industry associations to re-circulate livestock care and handling guidelines to their members and strongly encourage them to ensure sound animal handling practices are in place.

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association represents the nation’s farmers and ranchers. These cattle producers raise cattle on pasture and rangeland as well as feed cattle in modern feedyards.

These farmers, ranchers and feedlot operators have funded, through their beef checkoff, a set of animal care guidelines as part of the industry Beef Quality Assurance and Dairy Beef Quality Assurance programs. These programs outline handling guidelines at beef farms and ranches and dairy operations.

The Beef and Dairy Beef Quality Assurance guidelines are rooted in these day-to-day basics:

  • Provide necessary food, water and care to protect the health and well-being of animals.
  • Provide disease prevention practices to protect herd health, including access to veterinary care.
  • Provide facilities that allow safe, humane, and efficient movement and/or restraint of cattle.
  • Provide personnel with training/experience to properly handle and care for cattle.
  • Make timely observations of cattle to ensure basic needs are being met.
  • Minimize stress when transporting cattle.
  • Keep updated on advancements and changes in the industry to make decisions based upon sound production practices and consideration for animal well-being.
  • Use appropriate methods to humanely euthanize terminally sick or injured livestock and dispose of them properly.
  • Persons who willfully mistreat animals will not be tolerated.

Guidelines exist for many specific activities such as feeding and water, health care, shelter and housing, cattle movement, transportation and euthanasia. While non-ambulatory cattle are rare, guidelines do exist for proper handling of these cattle:

  • A prompt diagnosis should be made to determine whether the animal should be humanely euthanized or receive additional care.
  • Provide feed and water to non-ambulatory cattle at least once daily.
  • Move downer animals very carefully to avoid compromising animal welfare. Dragging downer animals is unacceptable. Likewise, animals should not be lifted with chains onto transportation conveyances. Acceptable methods of transporting downers include a sled, low-boy trailer or in the bucket of a loader. Animals should not be “scooped” into the bucket, but rather should be humanely rolled into the bucket by caretakers.
  • When treatment is attempted, cattle unable to sit up unaided (i.e. lie flat on their side) and which refuse to eat or drink should be humanely euthanized within 24-36 hours of initial onset.
  • Even though signs of a more favorable prognosis may exist, cattle that are non-ambulatory must not be sent to a livestock market or to a processing facility.

There are nearly 100 Beef Quality Assurance coordinators and several Dairy Beef Quality Assurance Programs across the country today. Many are collaborative efforts between cattlemen’s associations, beef councils and university extension.

Dairy and beef cattle are placed in our care to produce safe and wholesome food. From a beef safety perspective, it is important to know there are multiple safeguards in place that ensure a safe and wholesome beef supply. Our aim in these multiple safeguards is to raise our animals and send them to market in healthy condition.

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