People find satisfaction seeing animals in their communities. One of the most peaceful pictures of South Dakota’s landscape is a group of cows, horses, or sheep grazing, and the public perceives those animals to be happy and healthy. South Dakota is blessed to have livestock from border to border and interspersed amongst urban communities. Since the public shares their backyard with livestock, herdsmen should consider how the public’s perspective of animal well-being may differ from their perspective when an animal is seen limping. Realize that the public’s experiences with lameness and subsequent pain is most likely through an association with human aliments including tissue bruising, skin cuts, and bone fractures, so they empathize with the animal from that point of view.
- The animal is in pain and should be administered something to relieve that pain.
- The animal is uncomfortable and should be given a soft area to recover and assistance to move easier.
- Why did the animal start to limp…did it receive proper care to prevent this problem?
- The animal is hurt and there is no herdsman in sight; when was the last time the animals were checked?
- The animal is experiencing unnecessary physical and mental stress -- this is a well-being issue.
The public may think in terms of comfort level and empathize with the animal’s pain, whereas the herdsman may think in terms of a quick recovery back to normal physical condition and performance. Maybe from a different angle both mindsets still have the best interest of the animal at heart. The faster an animal recovers, the less time it spends in a state of compromised well-being (discomfort). This means a return to performing its natural behaviors resulting in improved efficiencies in the production of the meat and milk we all enjoy as part of a healthy diet. For horses, this may translate to a quick return to work on the ranch, the trail, or the show ring. Herdsmen should remember that sound health care practices for food animals can result in healthier animals free from discomfort that require lower treatment costs (e.g. medications, veterinary visits, time/labor) and promote improved production efficiencies. Consumers benefit from the herdsman’s responsible animal care practices by having a bounty of different food products available at an affordable cost with the peace of mind knowing the animals that produced that food received optimal care throughout their life. In addition, they should feel more confident that caretakers of animals in our communities watch their animals closely each day for signs of pain and implement best management practices to promote a healthy, comfortable life for the animal and inevitably a wholesome food supply for everyone.
Hopefully, this small comparison of perspectives can help us remember that not everyone views the world through the same eyes and experiences. Regardless of animal species or their role in our society (for work, pleasure, show, or food), addressing a simple limp will maintain or improve the animal’s state of well-being and minimize the negative secondary effects on the animal.