Cattle welfare starts at the top

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Geni Wren The training of employees who work with cattle on feedlots and farms is done to protect and enhance animal health and welfare.

“We need to move this from an industry issue to an operational issue to an individual issue,” explained Dan Thomson, DVM, PhD, at the April Academy of Veterinary Consultants spring meeting.

“Animal welfare, assessment and training is not just checking a box,” he said. “It’s a culture, and it has to start at the top.”

Thomson, who is director of Kansas State University’s Beef Cattle Institute, said many groups are developing cohesive guidelines for cattle welfare and care, but sometimes less is more. “We need to make sure all of the groups are on the same page.”

Thomson said training manuals and audiovisual materials are adequate, but at the end of the day the person learns by doing. “We learn from doing the work. Implementation of the practices and working side-by-side with employees is how they learn.”

Veterinarian’s role
Thomson says there is a difference between welfare assessments and guidelines. “Assessments are training tools, and the veterinary profession fits better with assessments.”

He noted that a lot of people have rushed to create best management practices (BMP). The creation of them removes some of the creativity from veterinary medicine, he said. “Surgical castration and dehorning are practices of veterinary medicine and the number one best management practice for someone wanting a BMP for castration is to have a valid veterinary-client-patient-relationship (VCPR) and get information from the veterinarian and be working day to day with him or her.”

For more information on animal care training from the Beef Cattle Institute, click here.

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Grahame Rees    
Australia  |  May, 01, 2012 at 09:33 AM

As someone who has spent over 10 years teaching in all parts of the livestock industry,I could not agree more with Dan.In fact when I teach in a feedlot or an organization I say upfront 2 things, 1 everyone from the top down have to attend and participate,2. I say you might want me to teach some skills,well we will do that along the way,however I am coming to change and create a culture that stays when I leave.It is about attitude and character.( character is what you do when no one is looking ) Love to meet you one day Dan,hope to be in KA to visit Bud Williams again real soon.