SPCA New Zealand
Advice & welfare

Cattle (Beef)

Farmed Animals

SPCA supports farming practices that allow animals access to the outdoors provided they are able to maintain comfort through unrestricted access to shade and shelter that protects them from the elements, such as extreme temperatures, solar radiation, and inclement weather including wet muddy conditions, rain, wind, hail and snow.

SPCA is concerned with the welfare impacts of winter grazing practices. All animals kept outdoors must have access to well-drained areas to prevent the animals from being kept on wet muddy ground conditions. Wet muddy ground conditions should be avoided as they have negative impacts to hoof and udder health, as well as resting, lying, and feeding behaviours. SPCA opposes the current practices of intensive wintering grazing that result in poor welfare conditions.

SPCA is concerned with the wellbeing of all animals and believe all animals must have the opportunity to display the full repertoire of natural behaviours. The current practice of intensive winter grazing, where cattle are kept in wet muddy conditions, does not allow for cattle to display these behaviours, and their physical, health, and behavioural needs are not being met in these adverse conditions.

SPCA opposes the confinement of beef cattle in large-scale feedlots or feeding cattle concentrates (including cereals) without sufficient additional roughage.

SPCA supports farming systems which allow cattle a choice of indoor and outdoor environments with sufficient shelter and shade and appropriate stocking densities. Our organisation advocates that all cattle should have access to pasture and grazing in the grass-growing season, without being kept in wet muddy conditions, and opposes the permanent, indoor housing of farmed animals.

SPCA advocates that beef cattle are kept in stable, long-term groups throughout their lives.

Our organisation advocates keeping beef cattle in stable long-term social groups where natural weaning can take place. Cattle are social animals who should be kept in stable groups throughout their lives, whenever possible. Cattle should be able to carry out a range of species-specific behaviours, such as the formation and maintenance of preferred partner bonds. It is acknowledged that animals may need to be removed from the social groups for husbandry, health or welfare reasons.

SPCA is concerned about the levels of lameness in cattle and supports the welfare of cattle to remain paramount at all times.

Stock people should be aware of the signs of ill-health, including lameness, in cattle and ensure that, where necessary, appropriate treatment is given in a timely manner. To prevent and manage lameness, a lameness management plan should be in place, that includes multi-factorial welfare components that addresses housing, veterinary care, nutrition, hoof care, biosecurity, and disease management. We advocate for all stock people to be properly trained.

SPCA supports the farming of naturally polled cattle, achieved either through selective breeding or genetic technology, as this would eliminate the need to disbud or dehorn cattle. Where there is a need to prevent horn growth in non-polled animals, SPCA advocates for animals to be disbudded rather than dehorned.

SPCA advocates that disbudding should be classified as a “controlled” surgical procedure, meaning that it can be performed by the animal’s owner or employee of the owner as long as they have veterinary approval/authorisation to perform that procedure on that species of animal. If disbudding does take place it must be carried out by a skilled and competent operator with adequate and appropriate medical care prior to, during, and after the procedure, including anaesthesia and analgesia (as authorised by a veterinarian for the purpose of the procedure).

Our organisation advocates that dehorning should only be performed by a veterinarian or a veterinary student under the direct supervision of a veterinarian. If dehorning does take place it must be carried out with appropriate medical care provided prior to, during and after the procedure and include anaesthesia and analgesia.

While horned cattle are still being farmed, our organisation supports appropriate management to minimise the risk of harm to the horned animals, as well as non-horned animals.

Our organisation opposes the routine tipping of horns. SPCA supports the practice of horn tipping, only if there is concern that the horns may grow into the animal’s head. Our organisation advocates that horn tipping should only be performed by a veterinarian or a veterinary student under the direct supervision of a veterinarian.

(see Disbudding and Dehorning of Cattle and Goats for more details)

SPCA advocates that the removal of the claws of cattle must only be performed by a veterinarian or a veterinary student under the direct supervision of a veterinarian and prior to, during, and after the procedure including the use of anaesthesia and analgesia.

Adequate and appropriate medical care must be provided prior to, during and after the procedure and include anaesthesia and analgesia. Claw amputation should be carefully considered in terms of the welfare impact on the cow.

SPCA opposes the long-distance transport and live export of beef cattle.

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