Submitted to: Dairy Herd Management
Publication Type: Trade Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 21, 2002
Publication Date: N/A
Technical Abstract: Research conducted by USDA and reported in the July 2000 Journal of Dairy Science shows no adverse behavioral or physiological effects when tails are docked on heifers one month prior to freshening. The study compared heifers that had tails banded and then docked one week later; heifers that were treated with 5 milliliters of lidocaine to numb the tail, banded and then docked one week later; and heifers whose tails were not docked at all. The researchers recorded no differences between the three groups in the amount of time spent lying, standing, walking, drinking, grooming, rubbing against the pen, and interacting with neighboring heifers after the treatments. Nor were any differences found in the animals' hormone and blood protein levels. However, eating behaviors increased in both treatment groups the week after banding. Researchers say increased consumption and meal frequency commonly occurs in other species during periods of mild distress. These results suggest that dairy producers can tail dock non-lactating adult animals without the use of lidocaine, says Susan Eicher, scientist with the USDA livestock behavior research unit. However, producers and their veterinarians may consider using analgesics to aleviate pain after banding, she says. She also notes that proper banding procedures - between the vertebrae in the tail - is necessary to decrease the pain and prevent unnecessary swelling when tail docking.