AVMA opposes tail docking of cattle


Executive Board establishes position introduced by group's Animal Welfare Committee

SCHAUMBURG, ILL.-The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Executive Board announces its opposition to the routine tail docking of cattle as it adopts a stance backed by the group's Animal Welfare Committee.

The position states: "Current scientific literature indicates that routine tail docking provides no benefit to the animal, and that tail docking can lead to distress during fly seasons. When medically necessary, amputation of tails must be performed by a licensed veterinarian."

Tail docking is most often not medically necessary, according to an Animal Welfare Committee (AWC) released report.

"Peer-reviewed scientific studies and government-sponsored research suggest there is no benefit to docking normal, healthy tails of dairy cattle," the report says. "Because most commercial dairies have high fly densities, particularly when the weather is warm, the tail serves as an effective fly-swatter and docking the tail can be detrimental to the cow's comfort."

Mixed feelings

While he does not view the position as based on science, Dr. Jim Jarrett, executive vice president of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners, says he supports AVMA's new outlook on tail docking, even if veterinarians aren't the ones doing the procedures.

"It's a common management practice, usually performed by producers, not veterinarians," he says. "We at AABP feel there might be some management situations where tail docking would help, but we support the AVMA's statement. There is some consumer feeling out there that this may be something that prevents cows from protecting themselves, but in well-managed dairies flies aren't a problem anyway."


Tail docking is most often performed as a convenience measure, allowing cows to more easily be milked, Jarrett adds.

While the AWC does not support tail docking for the comfort of personnel in dairies, it does approve switch trimming as "a reasonable compromise for personnel comfort."

Despite the AVMA's effort, Jarrett insists the position will have little effect on producers' tail docking practices.

"Producers aren't veterinarians," he says. "They aren't going to pay much attention to AVMA.

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