Submitted to: Hoard's Dairyman
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: May 25, 1999
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Tail-docking is an animal well-being issue associated with milker comfort and some economic advantages such as cleaner cows. Research conducted here has shown that docked cows are measurably cleaner but that docked cows and calves also had greater fly numbers. Research completed this summer on calves banded at 3 weeks of age demonstrated increased agitation and obvious behavioral signs of discomfort that were not observed when cows were banded one month prior to first calving. There was only one health problem (gangrene in the tail) associated with banding in 20 calves, and the cows were unaffected by banding. However, cows had increased acute phase protein (liver protein released in response to tissue damage and infection) following cutting off the tail at one week following banding. This response to tissue damage following cutting the tail was not present following banding. Based on these data, younger animals appear to be more sensitive to tail docking, and cutting off the tail should be delayed unti three weeks postbanding. Additional research is being designed with immune, behavioral, and physiological measures to determine when is the most appropriate age to dock, to investigate chronic pain in the tail stump, and to evaluate the effects of tail docking on herd health (mastitis) and food safety.