The American Veterinary Medical Foundation has revised their cattle tail docking policy to allow the procedure to be done under the guidance of a veterinarian via telemedicine.
The AVMA Board of Directors, while meeting April 5-6, approved the revision to the policy as recommended by the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee.
“The AVMA opposes routine tail docking of cattle,” according to the policy. “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.”
The policy previously stated, “When medically necessary, amputation of tails must be performed by a licensed veterinarian.” The policy now states, “Tails may be amputated on an individual basis when medically necessary by or under the guidance of a licensed veterinarian.”
The Animal Welfare Committee believes the revision acknowledges the current state of veterinary medicine in rural communities with limited access to veterinary care. Working under an existing veterinarian-client-patient relationship, a veterinarian may teach a producer to perform tail amputation. When cost, time, or travel constraints prohibit the veterinarian from performing the procedure, telemedicine can be used to determine when amputation of a tail is medically necessary.
The dairy industry in New Zealand developed the tail docking process during the early 1900s as an attempt to reduce the incidence of leptospirosis in milking personnel. The practice was also thought to improve cleanliness and decrease mastitis. However research over the years has not supported the idea that tail docking decreases mastitis or somatic cell count. In 2002, researchers from the University of Wisconsin found that cows with docked tails did not have different udder hygiene scores, somatic cell counts or intramammary infections than cows that did not have docked tails. A study by Texas Tech University and Purdue University in 2001 found that cows with docked tails were cleaner in general but had no difference in udder hygiene. Cows with docked tails also had higher fly counts and fly control behavior exhibited by foot stomping.