Tail docking dairy cattle: Responses from an on-line engagement
Tail docking remains a common practice on dairy farms in the United States. This paper describes the results of an online engagement designed to create discussion on tail docking, to document the reasons participants put forward for and against the practice, and to compare these reasons with the literature available on this topic.
A total of 178 people responded; 30% were producers, 23% were veterinarians, 25% had no experience with the dairy industry and 22% included a mixture of teachers, students and industry professionals. Approximately 79% of participants were opposed to docking. Responses varied with participant demographics (e.g. females were more likely than males to oppose docking), but in every demographic sub-group (e.g. by gender, age, country of origin and dairy production experience) the majority of respondents were opposed to tail docking. Common reasons for opposition to docking included the lack of scientific evidence that docking improves cleanliness or udder health, that docking is painful for cows, that docking is unnatural and that tails are important for controlling flies. Some respondents in favor of docking cited cow cleanliness as an issue, despite the scientific evidence showing no positive effect of docking on cow cleanliness or udder health. Additional reasons included protecting producer safety. These results illustrate the range of reasons that are cited for supporting and opposing tail docking. This approach can be used to better target outreach efforts (e.g. improving farmer education on the lack of positive effects of docking on cleanliness and udder health while addressing concerns about producer safety). More generally, this type of on-line discussion provides a safe and productive format for discussions about contentious issues in the dairy industry and provides a mechanism for producers, industry professionals and the public to share perspectives on these topics.
Weary et al., 2011. J. Anim. Sci. doi:10.2527/jas.2011-3858
By: D. M. Weary, C. A. Schuppli and M. A. G. von Keyserlingk