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VACTF Manual: Chapter 6: Animal Care Practices


Female - Cow
Male - Bull
Castrated male - Steer
Young animal, either sex - Calf
Young female - Heifer (has not yet had a calf; often considered less than 2 years of age)

Basic Animal Care Practices

NOTE: Feed and water requirements will vary considerably depending on the age of the animal, its size, amount of exercise or work that it performs, and physiologic status (e.g. whether pregnant or lactating, climate, etc.)

Remember that The Department of Agriculture must be consulted before any enforcement action is taken involving livestock or poultry (Title 13, Section 354 (3) (a))

  • It is recommended that fresh, clean water be available at all times.

  • Should have good quality forage or mixed ration available or be able to graze adequate pasture. Supplemental grain should be provided if needed to meet the additional nutritional demands of lactation, gestation, growth, cold weather or to compensate for poor forage or pasture quality. As a general guideline, one can estimate a dry matter intake of between 2-3% of body weight for maintenance depending on forage quality.

  • It is preferable that hay (with the exception of big bales) and grain should not be dumped on the ground, but rather placed in a manger or hay rack, or in case of grain, in a bucket, or other container.

  • Dairy calves have a limited ability to digest hay, grass or forages until after weaning at about 2-3 months of age, so must be on milk and/or "calf starter" grain until then.

  • All feed should be kept dry to avoid mold.

  • Unless already provided for in a mixed or complete ration, salt blocks should be available - either white salt or preferably trace mineralized salt (red blocks).

  • Should be provided with shelter that affords them protection from heavy rain, snow, and sun. Facilities should be well ventilated. Some form of natural shelter, such as a wooded area, may be adequate for certain acclimated and hearty breeds of cattle. (NOTE: According to Title 13, Section 365 (Shelter of Animals) "... all livestock... must be provided with... adequate natural shelter or a three-sided, roofed building with exposure out of the prevailing wind and of sufficient size to adequately accommodate all livestock maintained out-of-doors...")

  • Confined cattle should have dry bedding - can be sand, sawdust, shredded paper, straw, packed manure (if dry). In the winter, there should be enough bedding to provide insulation from the cold floor/ground.

Additional recommendations

  • Hoof trimming is not necessary unless the hooves are excessively long.
  • Should be vaccinated annually for rabies and other diseases, and dewormed according to veterinary advice.

Signs of neglect/cruelty - what to look for

Appearance of animal: note that dairy cows are by nature "bony" in the hip area and may normally appear thin during early stages of lactation; however, one sign of an emaciated dairy cow may be a protruding back bone and sunken eyes.

Housing Conditions: no place to exercise for adult animals (although tie stalls and stanchions are acceptable housing systems); no dry place to lie down; no water or food; overcrowded; strong ammonia odors (not just a manure odor) from lack of ventilation. Insufficient manger space for the number of cattle can result in a competitive situation which causes the weakest animals to be excluded from the food source.

Behavior: weak; minimally responsive; note that cattle who receive minimal handling (i.e. beef cows) will be naturally fearful of humans. Loud and frequent bellowing from many of the animals may occur when cattle are hungry and feed has not been provided.

If any of the elements above are present, arrange to have a veterinarian examine animals.

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