New EU scientific report on beef cattle and calves highlights serious welfare problems
Posted on 16/05/2012
The European Food Safety Authority, the EU risk assessment body for food and feed safety, published an interesting recommendation based on the latest scientific evidence on exposing the major welfare problems of cattle kept for beef production and the welfare in intensive calf farming systems.
The chapter on beef cattle presents new evidence and recommendations in relation to heat and cold stress, mutilations and pain management, digestive disorders linked to high concentrate feeds and respiratory disorders linked to overstocking, inadequate ventilation, mixing of animals and failure of early diagnosis and treatment. Major welfare problems in cattle kept for beef production, as identified by risk assessment, were respiratory diseases linked to overstocking, inadequate ventilation, mixing of animals and failure of early diagnosis and treatment, digestive disorders linked to intensive concentrate feeding, lack of physically effective fibre in the diet, and behavioural disorders linked to inadequate floor space, and co-mingling in the feedlot.
The report also mentions that beef cattle kept on slatted floors have a higher incidence of injuries than animals on straw or sloped, partially straw-bedded areas. Partial rubberisation or rubber mats on concrete floors, especially for lying areas, reduces the prevalence of lesions to claws and joints. However, wherever possible, the EFSA recommends that cattle housed on slatted concrete floors should have access to a bedded area.
With regard to mutilations such as castration the report states that “cattle at any age should always be provided with local or regional anaesthesia at the time of surgical mutilations and systemic analgesia for two days or so thereafter.” Approximately 35 % of beef cattle in Europe are disbudded and 15 % are dehorned by amputation. Nevertheless, disbudding or dehorning with sedation only, results in severe stress and pain.
Lastly, to promote effective control of multifactorial infectious diseases, the report suggest that cattle should be kept in environments that minimise physiological and emotional stress.
Eurogroup welcomes the report, which is an additional reason why new legislation must be enacted to close the many loopholes in this area and ensure proper welfare standards for beef cattle and calves accross the EU.