Animal handling, transportation and facilities can all contribute to lameness problems in dairy cattle. Research studies show that lameness results in earlier culling, as well as lower carcass weight and carcass value.
Put guidelines in place to minimize lameness problems associated with handling, transportation and housing facilities. Here are some recommendations from the Dairy Animal Care & Quality Assurance (DACQA) manual:
- Provide transportation that minimizes stress, discomfort, and the potential for injury by avoiding overcrowding, excess time in transit, and improper handling during loading and unloading.
- Handle animals quietly and calmly to minimize stress and reduce the potential for injury. Minimize use of electric prods. Use other driving aids — such as plastic paddles, sorting sticks, flags or streamers attached to long handles — to quietly guide and turn animals. Utilize the cattle’s natural flight zone and point of balance to move them.
- Provide facilities that allow for the safe, humane and efficient movement and/or restraint of cattle.
- Regularly inspect facilities (free-stalls, alleys, pens, fences, corrals, load-outs, etc.) to ensure proper care and ease of cattle handling.
- Provide cattle with adequate space for animal care, comfort and safety.
- Provide clean, dry bedding and protection from weather extremes.
- Avoid slippery surfaces, particularly in high-traffic areas.
- Provide employee training to properly handle and care for cattle, including proper movement and care of special-needs and non-ambulatory cattle.
The DACQA program is a voluntary, national certification program intended to enhance and demonstrate quality animal care practices. These practices assure food safety, quality and value as well as enhance consumer confidence in the milk and beef products that are harvested from cattle on America’s dairy farms.