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Ian J.H. Duncan Professor of Applied Ethology Chair in Animal Welfare University of Guelph Guelph, Ontario, Canada The Costs and Benefits of Tail Docking.

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Presentation on theme: "Ian J.H. Duncan Professor of Applied Ethology Chair in Animal Welfare University of Guelph Guelph, Ontario, Canada The Costs and Benefits of Tail Docking."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ian J.H. Duncan Professor of Applied Ethology Chair in Animal Welfare University of Guelph Guelph, Ontario, Canada The Costs and Benefits of Tail Docking Dairy Cows

2 History of Tail Docking Cows Started in New Zealand in 1970s Claimed that benefits included :- Better milk hygiene Improved udder health Improved milker health (Leptospirosis) Increased milker comfort Spread to the U.S. in late 1980s Spread to Canada in 1990s

3 History of Tail Docking Cows But remember : Dairy cattle are outside year round in N. Z.

4 History of Tail Docking Cows But remember : Dairy cattle are outside year round in N. Z. Manure is much thinner Very mucky winter conditions in N.Z. Now a vaccine for leptospirosis Canadian conditions are very different – so some benefits of tail docking may not apply.

5 History of Tail Docking Cows On the other hand, the introduction of parallel parlours means that operator is at risk of being hit across the face with faeces- and urine-soaked tail.

6 History of Tail Docking Cows Some recent research at UBC (Dave Fraser, Dan Weary) questions the hygiene benefits of tail docking :- No difference in somatic cell count No difference in cleanliness of cows (Tucker et al., J. Dairy Sci., 84: )

7 Tail Docking Cows So, many of the benefits of tail docking seem questionable. What about the costs to the cow? Acute pain? Chronic pain? Increased sensitivity of the stump? Increased fly nuisance? Loss of social signalling?

8 Tail Docking Cows BENEFITS COSTS

9 Tail Docking Cows Hygiene? Cleanliness? Unmeasured costs?

10 Tail Docking Sheep Prevention of fly strike Pain of docking

11 Tail Docking Pigs Prevention of tail biting Pain of docking

12 Tail Docking Cows Hygiene? Cleanliness? Pain? Fly nuisance?

13 Tail Docking Cows University of Guelph Study Measure the acute adverse effects of tail docking cows using rubber rings with and without epidural anaesthetic. Lennoxville Study Measure the acute adverse effects of tail docking calves using rubber rings or a hot docking iron.

14 University of Guelph Study Methods 64, lactating, mixed-parity, Holstein cows, housed in a tie-stall barn were used. Docked with anaesthetic (RRA) Docked without anaesthetic (RR) Control with anaesthetic (CA) Control without anaesthetic (C)

15 Four trials each with 16 cows Docking done after morning milking Different people to dock and to observe Observations were done “blind” Methods

16 Administration of epidural anaesthetic Methods

17 Every cow in the study had its tail bandaged... Methods

18 ... so that all observations were “blind” Methods

19 After 7 days the lower tail was cut off Methods

20 We measured on a daily basis :- Feed intake Milk production Somatic cell count Tried to measure stress via saliva sampling (but this was unsuccessful) Methods

21 We observed cows (especially behaviour likely to indicate pain) very intensively on first day and regularly over first week. Postures and posture changes Time spent in various activities Vocalizations Foot stamps, head turns, etc. Respiration rate Methods

22 No significant differences between treatments in :- Milk production Feed intake Somatic cell count Respiration rate Results

23 No significant differences between treatments in :- Postures or posture changes Time spent standing or lying Time spent ruminating Vocalizations Foot stamps, head turns, etc.

24 Results There were some differences in tail shaking and tail position :- Tail Pressed Against Body Day % Time C CA RR RRA

25 Results Tail shaking:We think that tail shaking was prevented by the anaesthetic and the rubber ring. Tail position:We think that the change in tail position following removal of the dead tissue is probably a mechanical effect and not due to pain.

26 Conclusions Tail-docking cows using rubber rings has minimal acute effects : No acute pain or distress Not even signs of discomfort No point in giving an anaesthetic


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