April 24, 2014

Humane Society wants end to dairy ‘tail docking’

There’s a call to end a dairy management practice in Wisconsin. It’s the cutting off – or ‘docking’ – of the tails of dairy cows. Casey Langen with the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation said the organization prefers to leave the decision on whether or not to dock the tails of dairy cows up to the farmer.

Our policy comes from our voting members, and that policy states that we support farmers and veterinarians deciding the appropriate husbandry practices done on their farms,” Langen said.

Paul Shapiro with the Humane Society of the United States wrote a letter to the Farm Bureau, urging the organization to take a leadership role in halting the practice. He said that has already occurred in some dairy states, including California, where a ban went into effect in 2010.

“There’s no reason to engage in this unnecessary amputation of these animals’ appendages,” Shapiro said. “Evidence is overwhelming that there’s no benefit to cutting the tails off of dairy cows.” He said the practice is cruel and inhumane, and opposed by the National Milk Producers Association and the American Veterinary Medicine Association.”

The Farm Bureau’s Langen said farmers chose to do tail docking in some cases for a variety of reasons, including animal cleanliness. “Some believe it will improve their milk quality. Others do it for more convenience for the milker,” he said. Langen said he could not cite specific numbers on how widespread tail docking is, but believed the practice to be declining.

Shapiro disagreed on the benefits, citing research by the University of Wisconsin Agriculture & Extension Service Center, which he said showed no influence on cleanliness or relationship on milk quality.