If your beef and dairy clients believe their animal welfare programs are only about audits and “checking boxes” on a list, they are in it for the wrong reasons, says Dan Thomson, PhD, DVM, director of the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University.
Thomson, speaking at the 2013 Cow-Calf conference at K-State in January to more than 100 beef cattle veterinarians, producers and students, said that animal welfare programs are about doing the right thing.
“It’s not checking a box,” Thomson said. “It’s a commitment and a thought process. It’s the best preventive medicine, nutrition program and water supply. Doing things the right way for the animals that are providing our living.”
Thomson described the self-assessment tools available for feedlot, stocker and cow-calf operators and their veterinarians from the Beef Quality Assurance program.
“You can take the assessment while preg checking cattle,” Thomson noted. “Or grade cattle handling or body condition scores. It’s a self-assessment tool to help, not hinder, an operation. This is a national program that producers paid for with their Checkoff dollars. They own it, they need to use it.”
Thomson emphasized the veterinarian’s role in animal welfare programs. “The key group for beef producers and the beef industry moving forward on this front is their partnership with the veterinary profession. If the producer can say he or she is doing the job the veterinarian told them to do, there is nothing more defensible than that if animal welfare is questioned.
“We need to train our people, educate our producers and work together on BQA to implement and assess our tools and get to the right place on the farms so we can make a difference. We need continuous improvement from the top down.”
Thomson says the industry and producers need to pick two or three things a year such as castration or dehorning, to work on. “Look what we were able to do with injection sites problems, which are now almost non-existent.”