WEBINAR PREVIEW: Handling Non-Ambulatory Cattle

November 3, 2016 | 5:00 pm EST | Watch Here

Providing the best care is especially important when a cow goes down due to illness, injury or weakness. Greg Crosley, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and expert in training dairy employees to understand, assess, properly transport and care for down cows. This webinar will help you develop the skills and a protocol for responding to a down cow emergency.


Greg Crosley, D.V.M.
Countryside Veterinary Service
Cement City, Michigan

Dr. Greg Crosley is one of the founding partners of Countryside Veterinary Service in Cement City, Michigan. He graduated from Purdue University in 1979 and joined the Countryside practice in 1981.

Dr. Crosley has developed skills in ultrasonography, surgery, and sick and lame cow diagnosis and treatment.  He has studied Spanish since 2000 and has been teaching Hispanic herdsman classes since 2005.


Why is the topic of non-ambulatory cattle important to the dairy industry?
Down cows present both economic and animal well-being challenges to dairy farmers.  Statistically, cows that are unable to rise in 24 hours have a less than one percent chance of ever standing on their own again. It is serious and imperative that we do what we can to help the cow rise and when possible, recover.

How can proper handling of non-ambulatory cattle make a difference within the greater dairy industry?
Proper care of non-ambulatory animals is an extension of an attitude of care toward all the animals.  If we can take steps to prevent down cows, while handling those we cannot prevent with a caring and compassionate attitude, our consumers will have greater confidence in the manner in which we produce a quality product.

Why should dairy producers care about the handling of down cattle?
It is our obligation as animal caretakers to do our best to alleviate pain, suffering and perhaps frustration from the animals under our care. Beyond the economic catastrophe a non-recovering down cow represents, there is the future marketing of the dairy product at stake, if consumers aren’t confident in the animal care we provide.  Also, as labor becomes scarce, workers will choose farms which demonstrate better values toward employees and animals.

Why is proper training important for dairy operations to implement?
Three people are required to move a cow that is down, and they need to be trained to know what to do, and how and when to do it. Even though most farm workers have an innate sense of care for the animals they work with daily, sometimes they don’t understand the dangers to cows and themselves from improper handling of down cows.  Quality care in this area of cow handling involves the use of equipment, which is potentially dangerous to cows and people, making proper training important.

What do you feel is the most important factor that leads to sound handling of non-ambulatory cattle on dairy farms?
I believe treating down cows on hard surfaces as an emergency is the single most important factor which will allow the most cows their best chance to recover.  It would also signify that farm management considers the care of down cows to be vital as part of their cow care program.

What is the most common mistake dairy producers/employees make related to   non-ambulatory cattle handling?
It is common to allow the pressure of other obligations to prevent workers from attending to down cows in a timely manner.  The realization that every minute a cow is down on concrete reduces her chances of recovery is often a surprise to people who spend large portions of every day around cows.

How will FARM help industry stakeholders raise the bar for handling of non-ambulatory cattle?
I applaud FARM for bringing awareness to dairy workers in the area of animal care and residue avoidance.  Without question, thinking individuals will desire to follow the guidelines established. Training, both corporate and individual, will reinforce the message to farm workers, and in my opinion, give them a reason to do what they know in their hearts is right.

This webinar is part the of the Merck Dairy C.A.R.E & FARM Animal Care Webinar series. You can view the FAQs and full schedule here.

WEBINAR RECAP: Dairy Stockmanship Skills

The Merck Animal Health and FARM Program Animal Care webinar series kicked off with arguably one of the most important topics related to proper dairy cattle care and well-being: stockmanship.

Dr. Ben Bartlett, DVM, former Michigan State University Extension educator and current livestock producer, shared his expertise on low-stress handling and emphasized that understanding “why cows act like cows” will help to achieve successful and repeatable sound dairy stockmanship skills throughout the entire workforce.

As with any aspect of management, good dairy stockmanship starts with a team approach, proper training and dedicated time to getting it right. “Animal handling is just like swimming. You can’t just jump into the pool for the first time and expect to know how to swim. Stockmanship, like swimming, requires practice,” said Bartlett.

The principle of practice and teamwork doesn’t only apply to the managers and employees but the cattle as well. Animals need to be given time to practice what is expected of them when being handled because, unlike humans, there is no verbal communication available to express expectations. Cow communication begins with understanding the cows’ flight zone, or personal space. Each animal’s flight zone is different but by understanding where and how to engage the zone and points of balance, the animal will move where and how you would like for them to with only minimal verbal communication.

Bartlett also stressed that it will take time and continued training for a workforce, especially those with limited former cattle experience, to learn these invaluable stockmanship skills. Cows form their trust of, and reaction to, humans from their first experiences and do not forget adverse treatment quickly. There is strong scientific support that low stress handling and proper stockmanship skills are not only the right thing to do for the animals’ welfare but also for their productivity and, in turn, the profitability of the dairy.  Therefore, training caretakers to handle cows in a calm, controlled and gentle manner is essential.

Bartlett also provided the three primary reasons why “cows act like cows,” which are critical for caretakers to understand when working with cattle. The reasons ‘cows act like cows’ are because of their anatomy, their instincts/evolution as a species, and their life experiences.

Cows see and hear differently than humans and therefore, process sights and sounds differently. They rely primarily on panoramic vision which only allows them to see the majority of their environment with very limited depth perception. Bartlett used the example of walking without being able to see your feet. Due to this unique vision as well as their evolution as ‘prey’ animals, cattle prefer to follow others, walk into light instead of dark and flee before exploring what danger may exist.

The final, and possibly most important aspect for animal caretakers to take into account when learning proper stockmanship skills, is that of the animals’ experiences. Cattle have great memories and are also able to understand your feelings and body language. Bartlett reminds us that the more positive interactions cattle have with caretakers, the better their memories will be and, in turn, the better they will respond when they are handled in a slow, low-stress manner.

“The goal of sound stockmanship is to establish a long-term partnership between humans and cattle,” said Bartlett. As such, routine training for employees and practice of these skills is essential. Training and documentation of proper stockmanship is also a key area that the FARM Animal Care Program encourages as a best management practice on all dairy farms.

For additional stockmanship training resources, FARM and the Merck Animal Health team encourage the use of FARM Program resource materials that can be found by visiting www.nationaldairyfarm.com.  Additionally, the Merck Dairy C.A.R.E 365 training modules are available at www.dairycare365.com.

This webinar is part the of the Merck Dairy C.A.R.E & FARM Animal Care Webinar series. You can view the FAQs and full schedule here.

WEBINAR PREVIEW: Euthanasia Guidelines

October 20, 2016 | 12:00 pm EST | Watch Here

Making the decision to euthanize an animal is always difficult. Jan Shearer, DVM, MS, professor and extension veterinarian, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, will review the decision-making process for euthanasia and considerations for selection of method. In this webinar, Dr. Shearer will provide tools and information that can minimize pain and distress in the animal.


Jan Shearer, DVM, MS

Professor and Extension Veterinarian
Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Shearer serves the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine as Professor and Extension Veterinarian. In cooperation with Extension Faculty from the Department of Animal Sciences and Iowa State’s statewide network of county and regional extension specialists, he is responsible for the development and delivery of veterinary extension programs designed to meet the needs of Iowa’s cattle industries, veterinarians and the allied agri-business industry. Dr. Shearer’s primary areas of research interest are lameness and welfare issues of beef and dairy cattle. He is probably best known for establishing the Master Hoof Care Program, a training program designed to teach on-farm employees how to properly care for foot problems in cattle. This program acquired national and international attention for its impact on foot health in dairy cattle and was fittingly recognized by the USDA Secretary of Agriculture in 2003 with the Honor Award for outstanding innovation in animal health. He is a Diplomat of the American College of Animal Welfare and serves as a board member and scientific advisor to multiple organizations and dairy operations. He served as Chair of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) Animal Welfare Committee (AWC) from 2004 to 2010 and was appointed as the AABPs Alternate Liaison to AVMA Animal Welfare Committee in 2012. He is currently the Chair of the Food Animal Working Group (FAWG) of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) Panel on Euthanasia and member of the AVMA’s Panel on Humane Slaughter and Mass Depopulation. Dr. Shearer has been honored by the University of Florida with the Superior Accomplishment Award (2001), by The Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine with the Distinguished Alumnus Award (2006), by the American Association of Bovine Practitioners with the Award of Excellence (2006), by the AVMA in 2011 as recipient of the AVMA Animal Welfare Award and in 2015 with the Delaval Dairy Extension Award.  .


Why is the topic of euthanasia important to the dairy industry?
In a “perfect world,” we’d cure all diseases and prevent any possibility of catastrophic injury that might interfere with an animal’s “quality of life.”  But, it’s not a perfect world; “things happen” and not all are good. Euthanasia is one way to assure relief from suffering when medical options have been exhausted or do not exist. 

How can proper euthanasia make a difference within the greater dairy industry?
In many cases, euthanasia is the only practical way to provide prompt relief of uncontrollable animal suffering. It is our responsibility as animal caretakers to have the knowledge and proper equipment to conduct this procedure effectively and with compassion to help assure the welfare of animals.

Why should dairy producers care about proper euthanasia guidelines?
An “unwritten agreement” called the “Ancient Contract” exists to work together for the benefit of domesticated animals and man. We, as caretakers, have a moral responsibility to provide animals with their basic needs – food, water, shelter, protection from predators, medical care as needed, and when the time comes, a humane death. Euthanasia means a “good death.”  When properly performed the welfare of animals is preserved.

Why is proper training important for dairy operations to implement?
Just as important as providing cattle with a high quality of life, is, when the time comes, to ensure a merciful death. Conducting euthanasia procedures correctly, regardless of method chosen, requires training.

What do you feel is the most important factor that leads to appropriate euthanasia practices on dairy farms?
Without doubt, the most important factor in assuring that euthanasia practices are properly implemented on farm is training. 

How will FARM help industry stakeholders raise the bar for animal euthanasia?
Participation in the FARM program provides an opportunity for dairy farmers, managers/herdsmen and veterinarians to consciously evaluate and revise or tweak their euthanasia practices. 

This webinar is part the of the Merck Dairy C.A.R.E & FARM Animal Care Webinar series. You can view the FAQs and full schedule here.