On every ranch, it’s inevitable that cattle may experience illness or injury from which it may not recover. It is the social responsibility of ranchers and veterinarians to determine if recovery is possible, and if it is not possible, it determine whether slaughter or euthanasia would be the best option.

At a pre-conference workshop prior to the 4th International Symposium on Beef Cattle Welfare in Ames, Iowa, Grant Dewell, DVM, MS, PhD, and Suzanne Millman, BSc (Agr), PhD, discussed why and how euthanasia plays a vital part of animal welfare.

 “We need to make sure the quality of the animal’s life as well as the quality of the animal’s death are priority,” Dewell said.

Dewell and Millman, both with Iowa State University, stressed consistently during the discussion that euthanasia does not indicate failure at the hands of a veterinarian, rancher or staff member.  It is not an easy decision to make, perform or discuss, but it is a crucial part of both veterinary medicine and livestock handling.

“Euthanasia does not imply failure,” Dewell explained. “Some animals are going to get injured, and some animals are going to get sick. Not all animals are going to recover.”

For animals that likely won’t recover, the next step for producers is to work with their veterinarians to determine if slaughter or euthanasia is the best option.

Dewell stressed “We need both producers and veterinarians asking, “is this the right time to euthanize,” instead of ignoring what needs to be done. There needs to be discussion between producers and veterinarians.”

Iowa State University professors Jan Shearer, DVM, MS, and Alejandro Ramirez, DVM, MPH, PhD, explain in the brochure “Procedures for Humane Euthanasia” slaughter should be reserved for animals that are not in severe pain, are freely able to stand or walk, capable of being transported and free of disease or treatment that might constitute a significant public health risk.

Euthanasia is the appropriate option when these conditions cannot be met.

There are two methods of euthanasia: gunshot and penetrating captive bolt. Click here to learn when each method is applicable and how to use each method.

Look in an upcoming issue of Bovine Veterinarian for more on euthanasia.