Develop a euthanasia protocol

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The need to humanely euthanize sick or debilitated animals on the farm often arises when a veterinarian is not immediately available, so knowing what to do and having a protocol in place is necessary.

At the 2012 Dairy Calf & Heifer Conference, Jan Shearer, a veterinarian from Iowa State University, discussed the importance of humane euthanasia practices and protocols. Currently, the most common on-farm methods to humanely euthanize cattle are either a gunshot or the captive bolt method, which includes a secondary procedure to ensure the animal’s death. Both methods are recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA),

“When properly performed, both methods meet the objectives of inducing immediate loss of consciousness and rapid death without pain or distress to the animal,” says Shearer. “They are considered humane practices to use if a veterinarian is not available.”

Work with your herd veterinarian to develop euthanasia protocols for your operations and refer to The Dairy Animal Care & Quality Assurance (DACQA) manual, which includes sample protocols and records, or to section XI of the DCHA Gold Standards III. This section of the  DACQA manual includes Practical Euthanasia of Cattle, a booklet developed by the Animal Welfare Committee of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP).

Remember: your herd veterinarian is your first call, but if not available refer to veterinarian-developed protocols for proper euthanasia techniques.


DACQA is a voluntary, national certification program intended to enhance and demonstrate quality animal-care practices that assure food safety, quality and value as well as enhance consumer confidence in the milk and beef products harvested from cattle on America’s dairy farms.

DCHA is the only national association dedicated to serving the dairy calf and heifer industry. The association strives to provide information, education and access to leading research and technology to its members and to the calf and heifer industry.



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