Submitted to: Journal of Dairy Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/10/2000
Publication Date: 7/1/2000
Citation: EICHER, S.D., MORROW, J.L., ALBRIGHT, J.L., YOUNG, C., STANKER, L.H. TAIL-DOCKING INFLUENCES ON BEHAVIORAL, IMMUNOLOGICAL, AND ENDOCRINE RESPONSES IN DAIRY HEIFERS. JOURNAL OF DAIRY SCIENCE. 2000. V. 83. P. 1456-1462.
Interpretive Summary: Tail-docking is a management practice in the dairy industry that involves several controversial issues. One consideration is the pain and suffering that is involved with the docking process. We investigated pain and well- being by observing cows' behavior and measuring immune and physiological changes. Cows were docked in a two step process. A band was placed on the etail for 6 days (banding) and then the necrotic tail was removed (docked). Behavior was monitored 24 h pre- and post-docking. Cows spent more time eating after banding, but less time eating after docking. We looked for movement of the head toward the tail. This movement increased numerically after banding, but was not statistically significant. Cortisol measurement did not show an effect of either process. Banding tended to cause a persistent elevation of cytokines (immune cell communication proteins), but lidocaine that was intended to alleviate pain caused higher cytokine concentrations. Two liver proteins that are released following tissue trauma and immune system activation, increased or tended to increase following docking but not banding. Based on these measurements, the tail- docking process did not appear to be detrimental to the cows when lidocaine was not used. This study provides scientific measures of the immediate effects of tail-docking on dairy cattle that will allow producers and veterinarians to make an informed decision regarding implementing docking in their herds.
Technical Abstract: Behavioral and physiological changes following tail-docking in first-calf heifers were measured. One month prior to projected first parturition, 21 heifers were assigned to control, docked, or docked with lidocaine groups. Cows were banded to initiate tail-docking and the necrotic tail was removed after 6 d. Physiological, immunological, and behavioral measures were taken for 10 d following banding. Cortisol was not different for control and treated cows. Haptoglobin increased for docked cows by d 7 post- banding (1 d post-docking). Alpha 1 acid glycoprotein decreased as haptoglobin increased and increased until d 10 post-banding. Tumor necrosis factor-alpha only increased with lidocaine and did not show an effect of docking by d 10 post-banding. Leukocyte phenotyping demonstrated increased CD4 positive and CD8 positive peripheral blood mononuclear cells for cows injected with lidocaine and gamma delta positive cells of those cows tended to be reduced compared to docked cows without lidocaine. Eating was the only maintenance behavior affected by banding (increased with banding and decreased with docking). Interactions and rubbing pen both increased with lidocaine but not for cows banded and docked without lidocaine. Tail-banding had no effect on any measures, but the cutting of the tail (docking) increased haptoglobin in response to the tissue damage. Lidocaine affected lymphocyte phenotypes, TNF-alpha, and behavior indicating more discomfort may have been associated with the subcutaneous lidocaine than with the docking procedure.