Livestock-handling assessments to improve the welfare of cattle, pigs and sheep

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Source: Temple Grandin, Department of Animal Science, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA. Email: cheryl.miller@colostate.edu

Abstract

Assessing animal welfare during handling for veterinary procedures or loading onto a truck is simpler than is assessing welfare in housing. The first step is preventing acts of abuse that everybody who is interested in animal welfare would want stopped. Acts of abuse include beating animals, poking sensitive areas, dragging downed animals, deliberate slamming of gates on animals or deliberate driving animals over the top of downed animals. The next step is to implement objective numerical scoring of animal handling. The outcome measures that should be used are percentage of animals that fall, strike fences or gates, vocalise during restraint, are miscaught in the head stanchion or are moved with electric goads. Repeating these measurements over a period of time will make it possible to determine whether practices are improving or deteriorating. Further improvements in handling can be obtained with stockmanship training. Physiological measures of stress such as cortisol, lactate or glucose are useful for assessing handling methods because handling is a short-term stressor.

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