Proper euthanasia discussed following Texas calf ranch debacle

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Undercover video disclosure of calves being beaten to death at a West Texas calf ranch has prompted a discussion of proper euthanasia techniques.

The owner of E6 Cattle Co. in Hart, Texas, where the undercover video was shot, explains that the calves were being euthanized because of frostbite.

“These calves had been exposed to frostbite and were losing limbs, toes, from the cold… it was an extreme situation because of the weather,” E6 Cattle Co. owner Kirt Espenson told broadcaster Trent Loos last week. To hear the entire interview, click here.

Espenson says employees had a .22 rifle for euthanizing the calves. But employees are shown using hammers and pick axes instead.

That prompts the question, Is it better to use a rifle or a penetrating captive bolt gun?

The National Dairy FARM Program Animal Care Manual  recommends a penetrating captive bolt gun when euthanizing calves. “Barbiturate overdosing also works well, but legal restrictions must be followed,” the manual says.  

Jan Shearer, of the veterinary medicine faculty at Iowa State University and a leading authority on humane euthanasia in cattle, says euthanasia of calves may be conducted by use of an anesthetic overdose, gunshot or captive bolt.

It’s important to make the distinction between penetrating and non-penetrating captive bolts. When working with older calves and adult cattle, only penetrating captive bolt guns should be used, Shearer says.

A well-placed penetrating captive bolt is generally fatal to calves, Shearer points out. A non-penetrating device, on the other hand, will cause unconsciousness, but death is not certain without a secondary kill step, Shearer adds.

Regardless of which captive bolt device is used — again, only penetrating captive bolt guns should be used on older calves — a secondary step to ensure death is recommended. Secondary steps include exsanguination (bleeding out) or injection of a saturated solution of potassium chloride.  

Even with a gunshot, a secondary kill step is sometimes necessary, Shearer says. 

Shearer explains the different methods here.



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Robert Cohen    
New Jersey  |  April, 25, 2011 at 10:52 AM

Thank goodness that female calves do not get frostbite!

Jewel    
Wisconsin  |  April, 25, 2011 at 04:10 PM

E6 Cattle Company--no excuse, NO excuse! We are dairy producers. We treat our animals humanely, period. Companies like yours, and managers/owners who do not ensure the animals under their care are treated humanely, even at death, have no excuse for their own involvement in the actions taken. Hire the right people, train them, and maintain a presence on the farm to be sure such inhumanities do not happen. Kirt E., you should know the consumer wants animal production which is carried out in a humane fashion. I'm no activist from outside the industry--I am a dairy producer with respect for creation, speaking out for what we within the industry want to tolerate! In my opinion, rectify your situation and get certified by FARM or another organization--or you don't deserve to make a living raising animals.

Jack    
NY  |  April, 25, 2011 at 09:04 PM

This is horrific and since when do calves have toes?

Greg    
Scotland  |  April, 27, 2011 at 08:41 PM

WHAT???? I cannot believe the comment in this article "That prompts the question, Is it better to use a rifle or a penetrating captive bolt gun?" Since when does such despicable acts of wickedness and cruelty against claves using hammers somethimes 5 or 6 blows to kill them promt such a discussion????? It should promt a discussion about the death penalty for the perpetrators of such vile despicable crimes. But then again American animal welfare laws are a disgrace!

Janis    
VIRGINIA  |  May, 20, 2011 at 07:03 PM

I DON'T PARTICULARLY CARE FOR JANE V-MITCHELL BUT WHEN IT COMES TO ANIMALS, I AGREE WITH HER. SHE SHOULD SPEND HER ENTIRE SHOW ON JUST ANIMALS. WHEN I HEARD ABOUT WHAT GOES ON AT YOUR RANCH, I SURE DO WISH I WOULD WIN THE LOTTERY SO I COULD FIND A WAY TO SHUT YOU COMPLETELY DOWN. MONEY, MONEY, MONEY IS ALL YOU CARE ABOUT AND IT MAKES ME SICK. I ONLY WANT MONEY TO FREE THE ANIMALS FROM YOUR GREEDY HANDS. WHEN EVER I EAT OUT, SHOULD I EAT MEAT WHICH ISN'T OFTEN, I AM GOING TO ASK IF IT CAME FROM YOUR RANCH AND IF IT DID, I WILL NOT EAT AT THE RESTAURANT! YOU ARE TERRIBLE AND SO ARE THE PEOPLE WHO WORK FOR YOU. THERE ARE SO MANY BAD PEOPLE IN THIS WORLD IT IS TIME JESUS CAME BACK TO PUT AN END TO IT.


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