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First year animal husbandry; Cattle handling Signs of health Reproductive data Ageing Identification Welfare

Cattle Handling and Restraint

Students Introduction
Welcome to this part of the course and an opportunity to learn about cattle behaviour and get some practical, hands-on experience in handling cows. The aims of the practicals are summarised on the following page, however this introduction contains a few more helpful suggestions as to how to make the most of the classes, and animal husbandry teaching in general. 1) Learn from experience These classes are purely an introduction to the various techniques involved in working with cattle (the same applies to all other species). In the limited time available there is no way that any of you can become experts and you must go away and gain experience through your extra-mural studies. This requires you to be active in practicing handling, milking, feeding, condition scoring, judging weights and ages and so on. It is very easy to spend 2 weeks on a farm as a spare pair of hands without doing these things. Cattle handling cannot really be learnt from a bookparticularly in the week before the exams! 2) Use the facilities The farm is here to be used and there are opportunities to help with milking, weighing and disbudding etc. Where possible you will be kept informed through e-mail to let you know what is happening. In addition there is now a room on the farm containing lots of general information about cattle and sheep as well as information from the Meat Hygiene Services and Ministry of Agriculture. There are breed posters and quizzes. Videos are also available which may be borrowed and watched on site. All these things will greatly expand your general knowledge about agriculture. Make use of the computer assisted learning (CAL) packages on breeds but remember that you need to look at lots of different animals of the same breed to get to know it. It doesnt look like the one in the CAL programme is not a good line in the exam! Agricultural shows are a good place to go to look at different breeds. The library is another source of information through books, journals and the farming press. In particular the Scottish Farmer, Farmers Weekly and The Sheep Farmer provide up to date information about whats happening in farming as well as lots of breed pictures and articles on milking, feeding and animal husbandry. It is important as well to read market reports and appreciate prices and changes in the market. 3) The practical exam The practical exam will test your ability to handle animals as well as your knowledge of practical aspects of animal husbandry. The first exam takes place in December of 2nd year. Students who require to be re-examined at the end of third term in 2nd year should not be discouraged but should use the time until the 2nd exam to gain as much experience as possible and not just read and re-read the notes. Do not leave it all to the last minute!

Handling Farm Animals

During Practical Classes AND during your Extra Mural Studies, you should aim to gain experience of and acquire competence in the following procedures; CATTLE Identify breeds and their purpose Estimate cattle weights Identify sex of animal Signs of health Movement of cattle from A to B Approach, catch and restrain (using gate or crush) Restrain cow for examination Use of halter Other forms of head restraint Anti-kicking devices Condition scoring Lifting feet Foremilk stripping, milk sampling, machine milking, milking routine Examine mouth Estimate age Administering drench / bolus Sites for injection and blood sampling Take pulse and temperature Restrain calf for disbudding / castration Management of the newborn calf, calf feeding SHEEP Identify breeds and their purpose Estimate age Movement of sheep from A to B Catch, hold and turn up Examine teeth Signs of health Estimate weights Condition score Examine and trim feet dag with hand shears Use of drenching gun Sites for injection and blood sampling

Introduction to cattle handling and restraint

SAFETY FIRST a) Your safety b) The farmers safety c) The animals safety Cattle are large animals! They must always be treated with respect, especially as you may be working with animals that are out of their normal environment and/or in pain. One of the main aims of this course is to teach you to work with different types of cattle safely and to learn what to look out for as potentially dangerous situations. As a veterinary surgeon it will be your responsibility to decide when to continue with a procedure or not. Are you happy with the facilities? Is the animal adequately restrained? Is the animal at risk of injury? It is not unheard of for vets to be taken to court by farmers who are injured or whose animals are injured during the course of veterinary examination and treatment. It is important that you have an understanding of some basic concepts and techniques in handling cattle to minimise stress to the animal (and yourself!). You will learn to assess the degree of restraint required in different situations and use appropriate methods. Good handling is not a matter of force but of careful planning and thought.

Cattle in general
Cows, like people, all have different temperaments and character traits. These may be related to the breed of animal or the odd cow in a herd that gives problems (shes a real character that cow, usually stated after you have hurdled a gate with a cow in pursuit). The type of handling that animals experience has a major effect on their behaviour (like children). In general cattle respond best to calm, confident and firm handling. All cows can kick backwards, sideways and forwards with their hind feet. They can also cause damage using their heads. However different types of animals respond in different ways when being handled. 1) Dairy cattle Dairy cattle are used to human contact on an individual basis and are less likely to become worked up or stressed during veterinary procedures. On a dairy farm there are usually various options for handling facilities including AI stalls, cattle crushes and the milking parlour. Some farms will have a proper crush designed for paring feet, which is a real blessing! 2) Beef cattle Beef cattle however are generally less familiar with being handled, especially individually, and are usually handled in groups. Most farms will have a race and crush facility available for catching animals. Beef animals, especially younger animals, will tend to become more stressed when handled. Strong, well-built and well-maintained handling facilities are important when working with beef animals e.g. dehorning, castrating or blood sampling. There are few things more frustrating than losing a calf

through the front of an insecure crush after spending 10 minutes getting it in there in the first place. Always check the facilities on a farm before you start and ensure that you know how to shut and open the head yolk and front of a crush. There is no better way of making yourself unpopular as a student or as a vet if you let an animal run through a crush because you could not get the gates shut. 3) Cows with calves. Always remember that even the quietest cow can become aggressive when protecting a calf, particularly when newly born. Be extra careful in these situations and do not get between a cow and its calf. If you need to treat a young calf ensure that the cow is restrained in some way (e.g. in a race or behind a gate) whilst you are working. Cows can move remarkably quickly if they want to so dont take risks. 4) Bulls There is no such thing as a safe bull. Remember that, although a bull may be quiet and well handled, you are a stranger and should treat all bulls with the utmost respect. Appropriate bull housing will be discussed during the course. Beef bulls running with a herd of cows tend to be quieter and less aggressive than individually housed bulls. Dairy bulls (Friesian, Ayrshire) are generally regarded as being more dangerous than beef bulls. However, there is a lot of individual variation. In general people are not injured or killed by dangerous bulls but by bulls that have been regarded as quiet and people have become careless in handling them.

Group vs. Individual handling

a) Group Handling groups of cattle calls for a bit of planning beforehand. Try to anticipate where problems are likely to occur e.g. possible escape routes or weak areas of fence. Ensure there is sufficient manpower, standing in the right place, to do the job. As a student, if you are not used to working with cattle, you should watch and learn from experienced cattlemen where to stand when trying to move animals in different directions. This will also be addressed in the practical classes. Not all cattle are used to dogs. Move animals as quietly and steadily as possible. Allow them time when moving into strange areas, through gateways or in to sheds. Once a few animals are in, the rest will generally follow. Do not rush them on slippery hard surfaces where injuries may occur. Keep animals in a group, as animals that become separated will tend to panic. b) Individual animals Work quietly and confidently. If trying to separate an individual from a group it is usually easier to take one or two other cows with it to the crush or other handling facility. This will usually keep the animal in a more calm state and avoids as much running around (cows and people). Anticipate where there are going to be problems and think of least stressful methods for sorting them out. For example, a cow that is reluctant to go in to a crush may follow another cow through. When handling the animal, use your voice and touch to let it know where you are. Grabbing a cows udder out of nowhere is a good way to be kicked. A calm, steady approach allows you to assess the animal and decide

whether further restraint is required. Decide this before the animal becomes worked up. Most farmers will advise you if an animal is easily handled or not (although there is always the odd farmer who finds it amusing for you to find out yourself). Remember that an animal that is apparently being difficult may well be afraid look for signs such as flicking ears, alert, head held high and jerky movements. She may urinate or defecate. A cow like this needs patient handling; over restraint may well make things worse. More deliberately difficult animals tend to flick their tails and snort. If not restrained they may attempt to butt you or squash you against a wall, which is never very pleasant. If a cow has its head down and is pawing the ground and snorting it is probably a) time to exit quickly and b) best left alone to cool down and then handled very carefully, probably in combination with another more docile animal.

Further reading Practical Animal Handling R.S. Anderson and A.T.B. Edney published by Pergamon Press. Good general text for all species- well worth a look. Deal with the danger - Safe cattle handling ISBN 0-7176-2512-5 Restraint and handling of wild and domestic animals 2nd edition M.E. Fowler

Practical classes
Practical 1 Introduction and hand out notes. Video on basic animal handling. Basic cattle handling on farm- halters, tethering, examination of the mouth, lifting front feet, injection sites and blood sampling.

Practical 2

Lifting hind feet using ropes, stomach tubes and drenching, use of gags. Ageing of cattle. Handling groups of animals. Signs of health.

Practical 3

Casting cows, reasons and methods. The downer cow. Castration and dehorning

1) Haltering
Putting on a rope halter is always more difficult then it looks but it is important to get it right as it is often the first thing that you will do on a farm. A vet who is unable to put a rope halter on the right way up does not inspire confidence in a farmer for further, more technical procedures! Practice is definitely the key to success. Traditionally the halter shank (the lead rope) falls to the left of the animal for leading. When tying animals up it doesnt really matter which side the shank is on as long as the rope tightens under the chin. 2 halters (one shank left, one shank right) may be useful when handling fractious animals.

The halter consists of: Poll-piece (P), which lies over the top of the head behind the ears Nose-piece (N), with a small eye spliced at each end, which lies over the lower part of the face The loop C passes under the chin and forms the lower part of the noseband. The kinch-knot (K) prevents the halter tightening or loosening, and should always be used if the animal is to be left tied up.

Kinching a halter contd. It is equally acceptable to pass the end of the shank between the chin piece and the head and pull it back through the loop you have created.

1b) Wyoming slip halter

This is a useful method for haltering an animal when your halter has disappeared, a fairly frequent occurrence in practice. All that is required is a length of rope with a loop on the end (use a running noose). Again practice makes perfect. Always kinch the halter to stop it over-tightening (see below).

Key Points Take your time to sort out and become familiar with the parts of the halter before approaching the animal. Approach from the side Keep your head out of the danger area dont be tempted to work from the front and lean in over the top of the head.

Sometimes cows will lower their heads in the yoke making it very difficult to lift and restrain the head. In some situations it may be possible to force your knee under the head to raise it. However, if the cow is particularly reticent then it is often useful to take a firm grip of the upper lip at the side of the mouth and simply hold on until the cow lifts its head. Once the head comes up, the upper lip hold gives a means of control whilst you reposition yourself to proceed with the task in hand. It may be necessary to ask a colleague to help raise the head. Indeed get used to asking, indeed bossing, those around into helping.


2) Tethering an animal
Always use a quick release knot when tying up an animal. Kinching the halter also prevents it becoming too tight on the animals head (see above). There is more then one way to tie a quick release knot depending on whether you were a girl guide or in the pony club. The method below is an option.


Quick Release Running Noose


3) Head restraint
Well-applied restraint involves reaching a point whereby you can safely proceed with the task in hand with the animal under minimal stress that equilibrium between applied force and minimizing movement will be different for each animal and more often than not the degree of required applied force is surprisingly small. In the absence of a halter your approach should seek to establish where that equilibrium lies by starting with minimal applied force and only working up to more severe methods of restraint where the situation demands it. A properly applied halter is one of the most useful forms of head restraint for basic examinations, collecting blood samples or intravenous injections etc. By passing the lead rope around a stanchion or upright on the crush it offers a significant mechanical advantage and will adequately restrain the head of most animals. In the absence of a halter an arm around the nose can be used to restrain the head but requires some strength holding the upper firmly lip increases the control with this method. Be wary of putting your arm round the back of the cows head when the animal is yoked for most individuals the cow is easily strong enough to lift you off your feet and potentially trap your arm between the back of the poll and the top of the yoke. Most commonly where a higher degree of restraint is required the nostrils are used for extra control. Take a good hold of the nasal planum (the soft bit!) rather than the nasal septum (the hard bit) and make sure your fingernails are short and smooth. Assess the animals reaction, some cows will just get more worked up, but the majority will stand more quietly. If the animal is difficult then bulldogs may be used in the nostrils. These can be fairly brutal, especially if spring loaded. They must be used humanely - tight enough to stay in the nose but not so tight as to cause pain.


4) Examination of the mouth /gags /stomach tubing

Examination of the mouth/ gags Incisor teeth can be examined easily with the animal adequately restrained. The head is raised and lower lip pulled down. Running your hands along the cheeks (outside, not in the mouth unless you are not very fond of your fingers) can sometimes allow detection of any sharp projections from the teeth hitting the cheek. To examine the tongue, floor of mouth and hard palate the mouth may be opened manually. The fingers (palms facing downwards) are placed into the diastema on both sides, thumbs placed on upper jaw and the mouth opened. Some cows are more amenable to this than others. However to examine the mouth properly requires a gag and a good torch. The most commonly used gag is a Drinkwater Gag. This is inserted through the diastema of the mouth and pushed towards the angle of the jaw until the upper and lower cheek teeth sit in the grooves. There are different gags for left and right (usually written on the gag). Other gags are available but much less commonly used including a Hausmanns gag similar to that used in horses. Stomach tubing In the adult the stomach tube may be used for administering fluid therapy or occasionally medication, rumen fluid sampling, assessing a choke or, most commonly, relief of gassy bloat. Other methods of relieving bloat will be mentioned in the classes. (e.g. trocar and cannula/red devil). In young calves a stomach tube may be used to introduce fluids or colostrum. Is the tube in the right place? You must be sure that the tube is in the oesophagus and not in the trachea. In a fit, healthy animal the choking reflex will usually prevent a stomach tube entering the trachea but in sick/ very young animals this is not always the case. Administration of fluids into the lungs will induce at best, pneumonia and at worst death, depending on the volumes involved, so do not take any risks. Check that: 1) The animal is appropriately restrained and that you have everything you need before proceeding. 2) Always be gentle but firm when passing the tube. Check that the tube does not have a significantly roughened surface that could damage the oesophagus/pharynx. This is especially important when putting a tube up the nose (especially horses) and if stomach tubing is being performed frequently. 3) The tube can be felt in the oesophagus on the left of the trachea/left side of neck. This is sometimes easier to appreciate if the tube is moved slightly whilst palpating. Commercially available calf feeding tubes have a bulge at the end that is easy to feel. 4) There should be an absence of air movements/breath sounds down the tube. 5) Blowing down the tube may produce bubbling in ruminal fluid in adults/ older calves. You should be able to blow but not easily suck, unlike in the trachea.


Calves The stomach tube is always passed through the mouth Adults There are 2 schools of thought. It is possible to insert the tube via the nostril. The nasal chamber is narrower and more variable than in horses so extreme care must be taken to prevent damage. Always lubricate the end of the tube and ensure the tube is an appropriate size for the animal. Introduce the tube slowly allowing the animal to swallow when the tube reaches the pharynx. Occasionally the tube can exit by the mouth instead of being swallowed resulting in a well-chewed tube when it meets the molars. This problem can be overcome by stiffening the tube in cold water before use. The tube may also be inserted directly via the mouth. This allows passage of a wider bore tube, which can be useful if administering large volumes of fluids. It is advisable to use a Drinkwater gag and pass the tube along the roof of the mouth to the pharynx. Some vets do this without a gag but it can be difficult to avoid the cow chewing the tube.


5) Examination of the udder

It is imperative that you let the cow know where you are and to use your voice. Running your hand along the cows back will give an initial indication of how tolerant she is likely to be. Then running your hand down the cows side from the spine to the udder to let her know whats happening will also allow you to assess its reaction to contact. Leaving an arm on the animals back gives you support and often allows you to anticipate a kick. Whether you can feel the whole udder from one side depends on the size of the cow/udder. It can be useful to hold the cows tail to prevent it being flicked in your face. Stand in close to the hind limbs - kicks are less severe than when you are standing somewhere that the leg has had time to pick up speed! Often you will be examining a cows udder whilst in the milking parlour or the crush so you may need to be adaptable and use your initiative to figure out the safest way of completing the task. Be careful not to put your arms between the bars of a crush in such a way that they will be damaged and trapped if the cow kicks or moves suddenly. Most crushes have sides that come off to allow safer access to the animal. Prevention of kicking 1) Tail held near the base and pushed directly upwards- useful in many situations. 2) Anti-kick bar. One end into precrural fold and the other end over sacrum BEHIND hook bones. Practice this one carefully! (diagram) 3) Udder cinch; the rope is placed in front of the hook bones round the precrural fold, around the back of the udder round the other precrural fold and back in front of the hook bones. Pull the rope tight and put in some form of quick release knot. This is quite a severe technique. Only suitable for cows with a reasonable size of udder otherwise it will simply fall off. 4) Belly cinch; rope around front of udder and front of hook bones around the abdomen and tighten- can be rather extreme but the tightness is adjustable. Tie the cinch off with a half hitch and adjust the tension by using a piece of wood as a tourniquet device (see diagram). 5) Hobbles 6) (Tendon clamp- applied to achilles tendon)


Tail jack Apply pressure at base of tail

Hobbles apply above hock or fetlock

Hook over spine

Daltons immobiliser or anti-kick bar

Behind hook bone

Precrural fold

Udder cinch runs between udder and hind legs

Belly cinch apply in front of hook bones and udder

Hock twitch


6) Examination of feet
Ideally animals should be restrained in a crush or occasionally in a proper foot crate (Woppa crate) which allows good examination of the feet. Adequate head restraint is essential. Tipper crates which allow the feet to be trimmed with the animal restrained in lateral recumbency and immobilised are ideal for feet trimming. However they are expensive and few farms have them. They are especially useful for trimming bulls feet, which might otherwise require the animals to be heavily sedated and cast. Lifting a front foot. 80% of lameness occurs in the back feet so this is a less frequent procedure than lifting back feet. With quieter animals it may be possible to manually pick up a cows forefoot but this is not advised in beef cows. Facing the cows rear, standing in front and slightly to the side of the cows shoulder, put your hand on her shoulder and run it down the shoulder towards the front of the leg, finishing with your hand behind the cows knee. Bend your legs, getting as low as possible and lean your shoulder into the point of the cows shoulder and push against the cow, this takes the weight off the foot to be lifted. Generally the cow will lift her leg, or at least take the weight off it voluntarily at this stage. When this happens pull the cows knee forward and, with the free hand, the fetlock backwards to continue flexing the leg. Once flexed, holding the cannon with the shoulder hand frees up the other hand to examine the interdigital space. The effort involved in the procedure should only be directed towards the push through the shoulder, using your own weight, keeping low, with legs bent and back straight. In particular, do not attempt to lift the leg bent at the waist with legs straight as this will be a fast way to hurt your back. If the cow shows no inclination to take weight off the leg in question or even transfers more onto it, do not persist leave it and come back later or consider an alternative method. In any case, unless you are a weight lifter or this is an extremely obliging cow only a cursory examination is likely to be possible. To extend the examination it may be necessary to lift the leg using a rope secured at the fetlock and up and over the back or side of the crush. Once the cow takes the weight off the limb then the leg can be easily flexed by pulling on the rope. Many cows will not settle for any length of time with a fore limb lifted in this manner. Care must be taken to make any rope fixings quick release. Lifting a hind foot 1) Rope or sling method This is the most common, safest and most reliable technique which requires a bar to throw the rope over and can be performed in most crushes and some AI stalls, if they are long enough. Care must be taken not to damage the leg in the process, so look out for problems such as sharp edges or weak crushes. Roof beams can be dangerous to all concerned if in poor repair. The sequence of events is depicted on page 21. The sling is placed around the leg just above the hock (1).


The free end of the rope is then thrown over the bar or beam (2). Feed the rope through the clip or loop on the sling (3) and pass it over the bar once more. Pulling down on the free end, and back and up on the sling itself will cause the leg to be lifted (4 & 5). Take the free end of the rope to the bar at the side of the crush and secure to the bar using a quick release knot (6 & page 22). The cannon can then be tied to the crush to prevent forward/ backward movement of the foot if required. It is worth trying the different quick release knots and making your own decision as to which one to use. Whilst some are easier to tie than others they also differ with respect to how quickly and easily they release under load. In the absence of a sling and clip as used in the practical classes a quick release running noose (p12) can be used to attach the rope directly to the leg above the hock, the end of the rope fed over the bar, back down round the leg and then back up over the bar again to be tied off in the same manner as before. This method is more likely to cause friction between the rope and the leg and as a consequence the cows may react by kicking more often than when the sling is used. Some handlers advocate using padding between rope and leg to minimize the chance of causing rope burns or pain. 2) Manual lifting This is not really advisable, verging on dangerous in most cows, and it is unlikely that you will be able to perform any meaningful examination, so use a rope.




Some quick release knots: Ordinary slip knot Highwaymans hitch

The Wright Special


7) Casting cattle
a) Casting a young calf Similar to the technique employed when casting sheep. 1. Make sure that there is space behind you 2. Stand close to the calf with one leg behind its shoulder and the other at its flank. Catch the head with the thumb in the corner of the calfs mouth or over the muzzle. 3. Push the head well away from you to bend the neck at the shoulder, keeping the nose high. Step backwards while pushing the nose into the body perhaps pushing the loins down simultaneously or lift the precrural fold. 4. Calf will go down gently. It cannot rise if its head is kept down and the lower legs are kept extended.


b) Casting adult animals Why? Medical treatment e.g. left displacement of the abomasum (LDA) requires the cow to be rolled. Obstetrics -sorting out a twisted womb Foot care, especially bulls. Surgical procedures e.g. LDA surgery

This is a very useful method of restraint. It does no harm to the animal (see precautions below), it is seldom difficult, is cheaper, safer and often quicker than using sedative drugs although a small dose can be useful before casting fractious animals. Often a combination of casting and a sedative is employed for animals in which the use of either method alone carries unacceptable risks. Precautions Avoid casting heavily pregnant animals Ensure a soft surface is available, grass or bedding. Make sure the animal has space to go down without injuring itself or the operators Loose hobbling may make leg control easier in nervous or fractious animals. Decide which side to cast the cow on before you start applying ropes. Have an experienced handler on the head, especially once the animal is cast.

1. Reuffs method This is the most commonly used technique in practice. a) The cow should be restrained by the head or neck in such a way that she can be released quickly if necessary i.e. chain tied to string or quick release knot. The cow must be tied to something solid that cannot break or be pulled out. Fence stobs are unreliable! Ensure that she will not be hung by the head when going down. Experienced operators can hold the halter by hand with a quiet cow. b) Loop the rope around the animals neck and tie a bowline (http://www.knots.net/Bowline.html) or a reef knot (non-slip knot)(below). Then take the rope to the withers and drop it down the left side (cow falls to right) or right side (cow falls to left). c) The rope is then taken under the chest, up the opposite side and passed under itself. d) Repeat this in front of the hook bones. e) Where the ropes cross will be loose and down the side of the animal until immediately before casting when they should be adjusted upwards until very tight. Some sensitive cows will show signs of going down at this stage so be careful. f) The rope end is first pulled backwards and then, as the cow shows signs of submission the rope is then pulled in the direction that the cow is to go down. g) Keep the ropes tight until the head is well restrained otherwise the cow will just get right back up!


Reuffs method should not be used in male animals unless generous padding is used to protect the penis from damage. Care should also be taken where animals have prominent milk veins. Use method 2 otherwise. Reef Knot:

Reuffs Method


2. Crisscross method 12m rope is divided in half and the centre of the rope is placed on the neck in front of the withers. Pass each end under the front legs and over to the opposite side, up the side of the animal, crossing over again in the middle of the back. The ropes are then passed between the hind limbs and pulled from behind.


8) Blood sampling/ injection sites

Venepuncture Blood may be collected from the tail vein (remove gross faecal contamination, body restraint required) or jugular vein (sample mid neck, good head restraint required). The mammary vein is also a possible site for blood collection and intravenous treatment but its use is not advisable. This is due to its tendency to form haematomas, the risk of phlebitis, risk of being kicked and the amount of dirt around it. Some farmers will use it for calcium treatment because it is easy to find. Intravenous injections Jugular vein, mid neck, good head restraint required. The tail vein is sometimes used for small volumes of sedative drugs (1-2mls) but it should be used with caution because cows have been known to lose their tails if there is damage to the blood supply caused by injecting irritant substances peri-vascularly. This is easily done in the tail especially if the animal moves. Intramuscular injections 1. Gluteal region, care must be taken not to damage the sciatic nerve so inject towards anterior of gluteals and take extra care with thin animals. Do not use this site in young calves or in animals close to slaughter 2. Neck muscles this is probably the ideal site in beef animals, as it does not involve expensive cuts of muscle. Middle third of neck, one-third of the way down from the nuchal ligament. 3. Quadriceps Subcutaneous injections Several antibiotics are designed for subcutaneous use. Also bottles of calcium and magnesium may be injected subcutaneously. The area of loose skin behind the shoulder is most useful although some people also use the area on the neck just in front of the shoulder. N.B. When administering subcutaneous or intramuscular injections always ensure that the needle is not within a blood vessel and be as clean as possible. Do not use contaminated needles and syringes and find a clean area of skin.


9) Drenching / Ringing
Oral administration of medicines Animals may be drenched using a drenching gun (e.g. worming) or a long-necked bottle. Introduce the bottle or gun via the diastema and aim it towards the back of the tongue. The head should be minimally restrained and the animal should be allowed to swallow as it is drenched- dont go too fast. Take special care with weak animals. Tilt the nose upward to aid drenching. Ringing bull Easiest in a crush with a halter and bulldogs if the bull is particularly difficult. A halter is usually sufficient. Ring is inserted low down through the nasal septum IN FRONT of the cartilage. Rings vary in size and are copper or alloy.

10) The Downer cow

Occasionally cows that are down are unable to, or refuse to rise. There are a variety of reasons why this happens. The main problem is that the longer the cow is down, the more damage occurs to muscles and limbs because of her bodyweight. Milk fever is the commonest reason for a cow going down. Most respond to calcium, but not all get up quickly. Trauma at calving causing damage to the nerve supply of the hind limbs, and toxic mastitis are other common reasons for cows being unable to rise. A downer cow must be fed and watered within reach and moved from side to side to reduce pressure on the limbs. They may need to be moved to a bedded court or onto grass, where there is a chance for them to get a grip. Other reasons for a cow being down: Lack of confidence on a slippery surface Lack of space to lunge forward when rising, i.e. stuck in a corner. Incorrect positioning of legs Physical damage caused by falls, mounting by other cows, casting etc. Methods to encourage rising Note - a good clinical examination should be performed to ensure that there are no medical reasons for the cow being down e.g. fractures, nerve damage, milk fever, hypophosphataemia. Ensure good footing, adequate space to lunge, legs positioned correctly, i.e. hind legs under cow. Slap hindquarters, encourage with knees against chest, verbal encouragement Use food or another cow in front Dogs sometimes useful Leave them alone for a bit! Various gadgets available of varying severity which can be useful (practical class)


Jon Huxley: Assessment and management of the recumbent cow. In Pract., Apr 2006; 28: 176 - 184.

11) Restraint for castration/ disbudding

a) Methods of castration 1. Elastrator rings. Can only be used if calves are under 7 days old. Care should be taken to ensure both testicles are included and that teats are excluded. 2. Knife. Scrotum is opened and testes removed by traction. An emasculator may be used in larger animals. Only a veterinary surgeon using anaesthetic may perform this surgery in animals over 8 weeks old. 3. Burdizzo (bloodless castrator). This crushes the spermatic cords, which include the blood vessels which supply the testes, but leaves the scrotum intact. Useful if unclean environment. If performed badly castration may be incomplete or gangrene of the scrotum can occur. Animals over 8 weeks may only be performed by a veterinary surgeon using anaesthesia. Restraint Larger animals are best restrained in a good crush. A smaller calf may be pressed against a wall or partition with the handler holding the tail up over the back. Better exposure of the scrotum can be obtained by haltering and tying the calf, and holding one hock laterally.


b) Methods of disbudding / dehorning Up to 7 days buds may be chemically cauterised. After this buds are usually removed using a gas or electric disbudder with local anaesthetic. Large animals require good crush restraint and a halter. The main problem in removing large horns is achieving good haemostasis. Restraint Put the back end of the calf in a corner to prevent movement. Assistant stands with thigh against the calfs neck with a hand around the muzzle/jaw. Operator holds the opposite ear away from burner. There are small commercial calf crushes available or can put calfs head through feeding space if individually housed.

12) Condition scoring Condition scoring is a technique used for assessing the body condition of livestock at regular intervals. Its purpose is to achieve a balance between economic feeding, good production and good welfare and attention to body condition scoring scoring can contribute significantly to good husbandry, welfare and management of beef and dairy cows. This helps to ensure that the cow is in the correct condition for each stage of her annual cycle and that appropriate dietary changes can be made in order to correct any deficiencies.


How to Body Condition Score Body condition is assessed on a scale of 15. Score 1 is extremely thin and score 5 is extremely fat. Ideally body condition should be assessed to the nearest half score. Consistency between assessments is vital to the success of the technique. Consistency in the technique is the key to good condition scoring. The scoring system is designed to cover all breeds of cows, but some allowance should be made for different types. For example the very good conformation of a well-muscled Belgian Blue cross may underlie a low level of body fatness. Conversely Holstein/Friesian crosses with a poor conformation may be carrying more body condition than is visually apparent. It is very important not to confuse assessment of animal condition with conformation. Cows should be handled at the tail head, ribs and loin area. The assessment is usually based on examining the tailhead, the loin and ribs. The operation should be carried out quietly and carefully using the same hand from cow to cow. An overall visual inspection is also important. The Tail Head Assess by standing directly behind the cow. The tailhead is scored by feeling for the amount of fat around the tailhead and the prominence of the pelvic bones. Loin and Ribs Stand to the side of the cow. The loin is scored by feeling the transverse and vertical projections of the vertebrae and the amount of fat in between them. The ribs are scored using the flat of the hand and fingertips to feel the amount of fat over them. Adapted from an article Condition scoring of beef suckler cows and heifers DEFRA Publications ONLINE: www.defra.gov.uk/corporate/publications/pubfrm.htm


Score 1

Condition Poor (very thin)

Tail head Deep cavity with no fatty tissue under skin. Skin fairly supple, coat condition often rough.

Ribs Sharp with no fat cover

Loin Spine prominent and transverse processes sharp.


Shallow cavity but pin bones prominent; some fat under skin. Skin supple

Can be identified individually but feel rounded rather than sharp

Transverse processes can be identified individually with ends rounded


Fat cover over whole area and skin smooth but pelvis can be felt, but only with firm pressure.

Individual ribs can only be felt with firm pressure

End of transverse process can only be felt with pressure; only slight depression in loin


Completely filled and folds and patches of fat evident but soft to touch

Folds of fat developing over ribs

Cannot feel processes and have completely rounded appearance

Grossly fat

Bone structure of the animal no longer noticeable and almost completely buried in fatty tissue

Covered with a thick layer of fat

Pelvis impalpable even with firm pressure


13) Weigh banding Many commercial farms do not have complete restraint and handling systems, and few have animal scales to determine body weights. As body weight is directly related to several different linear measurements of the body itself it is possible to estimate bodyweight on the basis of such measurements. The most popular measurement is to measure the heart-girth, ie the animals circumference at the level of the heart.
BW (kg) = -324.52 + 4.175*Heart girth (cm)
700 600 500 400 300 200 100 0 50 100 150 Heart girth (cm) 200 250

Predicting Body Weight in Holstein Heifers Using Body Measurements (1992 J Dairy Sci 75:3576-3581) As the relationship between bodyweight and heart girth can be expected to vary for cattle of different body conformation it is wise for a farmer to establish, using a weigh crate, the relationship for the breed and sex of the cattle in question before absolutely relying on the absolute precision of these linear measurements.

Bodyweight (kg)


BASIC ANIMAL HUSBANDRY Terminology / Signs of Health / Ageing / Welfare CATTLE Terms used to describe cattle
This is difficult to summarise clearly because the terminology varies in different parts of the country- the same applies to sheep. Calf Bobby calf Pail-fed calf Suckled calf Weaned/speaned Stirk Store cattle Fattening / Finishing cattle Bull Bullock/steer Cow up to 6 months old surplus bull calf from dairy herd reared artificially with milk or milk substitute reared on a cow calf off milk/ away from mother inexact term (varies from region to region) usually describes an animals between 3 months and 1 year Young animals being fed for growth prior to fattening and slaughter cattle being fattened for slaughter. Usually beef breeds or beef crosses. uncastrated male at least 6 months old castrated male for official purposes this describes an animal after the start of her first lactation. On most farms describes cows after they have completed their first lactation. beef breed cow or crossbred whose progeny is fattened for meat. Alternative description for beef cow. Occasionally get a cow on a farm that is used for multiple suckling a group of calves. cow kept for milk production cow transferred out of herd, usually to slaughter but may be sold on elsewhere. female until first lactation (see cow) heifer which has not been served or inseminated variable term but usually from 14 months old to mating/A.I. heifer confirmed pregnant

Beef cow Suckler cow Dairy cow Cull cow Heifer Maiden heifer Bulling heifer In-calf heifer


Signs of health
Alert, normal stance, no lameness, eating and ruminating normally, no abnormal discharges, shiny coat, no coughing. Temperature 38-39oC (101-102.4oF) Respiration 12-25 breaths/minute (varies with age) Pulse 50-60/minute in adults, taken at angle of jaw, inside foreleg or under tail.

Signs of heat (oestrus)

Good oestrous detection is vital for good fertility in dairy herds. Poor detection is one of the main reasons for poor fertility. There is often variation in the signs that are presentusually not all apparent in all animals. The main signs are: Behaviour Standing to allow other bovines to mount Attempting to mount other bovines (often mounting them from the front) Unusually alert and restless Increased respiration rate Vocalising/calling (bulling) Clear copious stringy mucus from vulva, often seen on tail and dries on the skin and hair of thighs and tail. Blood stained mucus (can be significant amount in some cows) seen 2 days post oestrus. Tail head may appear rubbed or licked. This is used as the basis of Kamar heat detectors.


Other signs

Signs of approaching parturition

Abdominal enlargement Usually apparent from 3 months before calving but this can be very subjective, especially in cows that have had several calves previously. Never use this solely as an indicator of pregnancy as a veterinary surgeon. From around 7 months onward some stockmen are able to feel the calf by ballottement of the right flank. Usually occurs from 1 month before calving, variation between cows and heifers. Calving imminent Springing usually occurs when calving imminent but in older cows may occur earlier. Usually calving imminent but may occur from 2 weeks precalving.

Udder filling Udder and teats tense Relaxation of ligaments Mucus from vulva


SHEEP Terms used to describe sheep

Ewe Lamb Hogg Gimmer Shearling Tup/Ram/Tip Wether or wedder Cast/draft ewe adult female sheep after weaning of first lambs birth to weaning (approx. 4-5months) from weaning (1st autumn) to first shearing (around 14 months), either sex or neuter. female from first shearing until weaning of first lambs varies from region to region, generally either sex 1 to 2 years old. entire adult male castrated male ewe sold, often hill ewes, for breeding in a less stressful environment, usually have one more breeding season left, may have broken mouths, only one teat functional. ewe sold for slaughter, end of breeding life. vasectomised tup, used for synchronising heat and to induce oestrus.

Cull Ewe Teaser

Signs of health
Appetite Chewing the cud Alert and lively Stance and gait normal Firm faeces Fleece complete, not ragged, not too white. Body temperature 39.1oC (102.3oF) Pulse rate 70-80/ minute

Signs of heat (oestrus)

Searching for tup Followed by tup Tup sniffing/striking with foreleg Restless/ tail twitching

Signs of approaching parturition

Udder development (last 5 days) Leaving flock-imminent Lamb stealing-imminent Pawing ground and circling-imminent Appear uncomfortable-imminent


PIGS Terms used for pigs

Sow Boar Gilt Hog Piglet Weaner Store/Young/ Fattening pigs Pork pigs Cutter pigs Heavy pigs adult female entire male female up to weaning first litter castrated male birth to weaning (may be 10 days to 6 weeks, 3kg-16kg) usually 3 weeks at 8kg from weaning until 2-3 weeks after weaning (16-27kg) transferred to another unit for finishing lightest weights for slaughter lean pigs specially bred and reared for bacon production larger pigs reared for processing into various forms of saleable meat e.g. sausage, hams etc.


Cambridge (kg liveweight) 50-75 75-100 80-100 105+

Farmers Weekly (kg liveweight) 40-67 68-82 83-101 102+

Porker Cutter Baconer Heavy hog

Meat and Livestock Commission (kg dead weight) <50 50-81 59-77 82+

Signs of health

good appetite pale pink skin in white breeds any hair flat and shiny lively and alert, young pigs should be playful restless, unusually vocal red, swollen vulva, mucus discharge back pressure test-sow will stand when pressed in lumbar region boar and sow attracted to each other ears may become more erect in prick-eared breeds when subjected to back pressure test or when near a boar.

Signs of heat

Signs of approaching farrowing

enlarged abdomen and udder more prominent (up to 3 weeks before) clear fluid can be drawn from teats (48 hours before) restless, noisy and destructive (24 hours pre-farrowing) colostrum can be drawn from teats (24 hours pre-farrowing)


GOATS Signs of heat / oestrus

Bleating Tail wagging Cherry red vulva Restless Smacking lips Being struck by billy and standing to be mounted Slight cloudy discharge from vulva just after heat

Signs of parturition

Similar to sheep False pregnancy fairly common (cloudburst) Resent manipulation at parturition compared to sheep

Age at first mating Oestrus frequency Reproductive activity Duration of oestrus Gestation period Breeding life CATTLE 15-18 months SHEEP 19 months (occasionally 78 months) 17 days September 20-30 hours PIGS 7-8 months GOATS 18 months

3 weeks All year 6-24 hours (average 12 hours) 9 months (280 days)

3 weeks All year 2-3 days (approx. 66 hours) 3 months, 3 weeks, 3 days (115 days) Around 3 years

3 weeks Inactive in summer 24-36 hours

5 months

5 months

Dairy 3-4 lactations Beef around 10 years Number of teats 4 Duration of 305 days lactation

Varies, average around 5 crops of lambs 2 2-4 months

Varies 6-9 lactations

12-16 3-6 weeks

2 235 days (dairy goats)



1) Look at the whole animal from a distance. This avoids confusion where you might mistake a full mouth of milk teeth from a full mouth of permanents. In sheep, aging animals is only really an issue when working with breeding ewes and tups. Does she look young (perhaps smaller, fitter, glossy coat, neat coat, small, neat udder. Udder hanging evenly) or old (grey hairs? aged face, sagging udder/ pendulous abdomen, misshapen feet/legs, bony protuberances more noticeable?). With experience you can at least assess approximately whether animals are young, old or in between. 2) Middle-aged animals are more difficult. This is where dentition becomes an issue. In particular with cattle, the eruption of 4 central permanent incisors is important when assessing an animals age for slaughter for human consumption. If there are only milk teeth and 2 central permanent incisors, the animal can be assumed to be under 30 months but if there are 4 permanent incisors then documented proof of age is required. This becomes less important as all animals will have either passports or be on the new cattle tracing system (September 1998).


Cattle teeth and age

Estimation of the age of cattle by examining their teeth is possible but only a very rough indication can be achieved. For practical purposes the only teeth that are important are those visible at the front on the lower jaw and consist of 8 teeth similar in appearance, which are the 6 incisors and the 2 canine teeth. The canine teeth lie either side of the 6 incisors, which are numbered from the centre outwards, i.e. incisor 1, 2 and 3 on either side. Calves are born with temporary teeth, which are shed as permanent teeth grow in. The temporary teeth also wear much more quickly than permanent teeth. The order of eruption of the permanents is from the centre outwards and it takes around 5 months from the time eruption begins until the tooth has grown in completely. Once all the front teeth have grown it is not possible to say that the animal is other than mature. There are several good websites on cattle dentition and ageing e.g. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/ofo/tsc/bse_information.htm or http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/FSISNotices/5-04.htm Eruption of permanent teeth Eruption 1y 9m 2y 3m 2y 9m 3y 3m In wear 2y 2y 6m 3y 3y 6m

Central incisors Second incisors Third incisors Canine teeth N.B.

In some animals the third incisor teeth and canines can erupt as late as 3y 6m and 4y respectively.

Sheep teeth and age

Eruption of permanent teeth Eruption 1y 3m 1y 9m 2y 3m 2y 9m In wear 1y 6m 2y 2y 6m 3y

Central incisors Second incisors Third incisors Canine teeth N.B.

In some animals the third incisor teeth and canines can erupt as late as 3y and 4y respectively.


IDENTIFICATION AND TRACING Identification of cattle

By law all calves must have an ear tag in each ear. Both tags carry the same information. That is the herd number, individual unique identification number and country of origin.

The Cattle Tracing System

The Cattle Tracing System (CTS) came into operation on the 28th September 1998. There is one system to cover the UK. Details are available in the classroom and there is also a video available. There are four main elements: All cattle must have a unique number, which is recorded on two ear tags per animal, one in each ear. Dairy cattle must have at least one tag fitted within 36 hours of birth. The second tag may be fitted within 20 days of birth. Other cattle must be tagged within 20 days of birth. All cattle must be tagged before they leave the holding of birth. Farm records: Records of cattle births, imports, movements and deaths must be kept by farmers. The Register may be paper or computer based. Registers must be retained by farmers for 10 years and 3 years in any other case (e.g. markets). Passports: All cattle born in or imported into Great Britain since 1 July 1996 must have a cattle passport. This applies whether the cattle are male, female, dairy or beef and also applies even if the animal is still on the holding on which it was born. A cattle passport must remain with an animal throughout its life. All applications for cattle passports must be made to the BCMS within 7 days of tagging. The CTS is a computer-based system to register cattle in Great Britain and The CTS: their movements from birth to death. The CTS records the identification and death of cattle registered since July 1996 and, additionally, the movements from birth to death of cattle issued with passports from 28 September 1998. All cattle keepers involved when an animal with a new passport moves must tell BCMS. For example, when there is a private sale, the seller will need to tell BCMS about the movement off his holding, and the buyer will need to tell BCMS about the movement on to his holding. Tagging:

Identification of sheep and goats

Sheep and goats keepers in England and Wales are required to mark them before they leave their holding of birth with their sheep flock or goat herd mark (individual identification numbers are not required). This will be compulsory from 1 January 2001. The regulations in Scotland are expected to be similar.


Castration / dehorning etc Welfare Regulations

See Summary of the Law Relating to Farm Animal Welfare published by MAFF for more details.

Operation Castration Age of animal Up to 7 days Technique Rubber ring or device to restrict flow of blood to scrotum Other than rubber ring method Other than rubber ring method Not specified Chemical cauterisation Other than above Not specified Persons who may perform Unqualified Anaesthetic Without

Up to 2 months



2 months and over Dehorning Disbudding calves Removal of supernumerary teats Any age Up to 7 days Unspecified Up to 3 months

Veterinary Surgeon unqualified Unqualified Unqualified Unqualified


With Without With See regulations

3 months and over

Not specified

Veterinary surgeon

See regulations


Operation Castration Age of animal Up to 7 days Technique Rubber ring or device to restrict flow of blood to scrotum Other than rubber ring method Other than rubber ring method Rubber ring or device to restrict flow of blood to tail Permitted only if sufficient tail is retained to cover the vulva of female sheep and the anus of male sheep Not specified Trimming insensitive top of an ingrowing horn. Persons who may perform Unqualified Anaesthetic Without

Up to 3 months



3 months and over Docking of tails Up to 7 days

Veterinary Surgeon Unqualified



Any age


See regulations

Dehorning and disbudding

Any age Any age

Veterinary surgeon Unqualified

See regulations See regulations