Codes of Culling Are you ready to ship?

September 20, 2009 07:00 PM

Cull cows should be in good condition, fully ambulatory and milked out just prior to transport.
With increased scrutiny of downer cows by activist groups and the public, dairy producers must rethink how they handle their cull cows.

"Everything you do on your dairy makes a difference,” says Jon Wheeler, manager of Oord Dairy. The dairy, in Sunnyside, Wash., milks 6,600 cows, has 1,000 dry cows, farms 2,000 acres and operates with 70 employees.

"Whatever we do, we must do it with integrity and transparency,” Wheeler says. "Ultimately, it is our image and our reputation that is at stake. Let's not wait for a crisis to happen; our image as an industry needs to be impeccable.”

Start by reviewing your own operation:
  • Is there anything in your daily operation that you're not proud of?
  • Do your workers know and care about consumer perceptions of your operation?
  • Do you set a positive example?

If changes are needed, take action.

Wheeler recommends mapping where the downers occur. By identifying the problems and keeping good records, you can recognize trends. Then work with your veterinarian to develop protocols specific to your dairy to prevent downers from occurring in these areas.

Educate workers so they understand the reasons for the protocols and train them to follow the protocols precisely. "Any animal abuse or violations of protocol should carry severe penalties,” Wheeler says.

Wheeler recommends using a three-color coding system for animals slated for culling.

Green: OK to put on the truck.

Yellow: Stop and check. A manager should examine the animal to determine if she is well enough to ship. Is she too thin, with a body condition score of less than 2? Does she have trouble walking? Does she have a temperature? A retained placenta or prolapsed uterus? A cancerous tumor or lesion?

Red: Don't ship. "If an animal is nonambulatory, she should be dead,” Wheeler says. "And you should evaluate how she was allowed to get to that state.”


The National Milk Producers Federation has developed these top 10 considerations for producers who are culling and transporting livestock animals:

1. Do not move nonambulatory animals to market under any circumstances.

2. Make the decision to treat, cull or euthanize animals promptly.

3. Delay transport of exhausted or dehydrated animals until they are rested, fed and watered.

4. Milk all lactating cows just before they are transported.

5. Use a trucking firm you know and trust.

6. Do not transport until all proper treatment withdrawal times are completed.

7. Do not transport animals with poor body condition scores, generally less than 2.

8. Do not transport animals that require mechanical assistance to rise or walk, (except to get them veterinary care).

9. Do not transport animals with bone fractures of limbs or injuries to the spine.

10. Do not transport animals that will not pass pre-slaughter inspection. If unsure, consult your veterinarian.

Bonus content:

Spanish version

Penn State''s "Concerns for Euthanasia and Disposal for Cattle"

Practical Euthanasia of Cattle

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