Note: Coverage continues and reports on veal and other business will be posted here soon.
REYNOLDSBURG, Ohio — The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board advanced four more sets of standards to the public e-comment period during its meeting Feb. 22.
Sheep, goats, dairy and beef are now available for comment through March 10.
Dairy and beef received the most attention during the meeting, in which the board continued its discussion of whether farmers should be permitted to dock the tails of their cattle — a practice of removing part of the tail for reasons of cleanliness and ease of milking.
Jack Advent, Executive Director of OVMA, expressed the concerns of fellow veterinarian Brad Garrison, who was unable to attend. Advent asked the board “to include the prohibition on tail docking in the (dairy) document” and cited a host of organizations who “all oppose the routine tail docking of dairy cattle.”
According to the AVMA position, found on its website: “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. When medically necessary, amputation of tails must be performed by a licensed veterinarian.”
The board ultimately approved this and other standards presented by its dairy subcommittee, which calls for a 6-year phaseout of tail docking and a specific definition of what is allowable. During the six years, the board is willing to review research on tail docking and agreed to review any compelling results that may warrant its use.
Board member and dairy farmer Stacey Atherton said the phaseout provides time for the board to either confirm or revise its policy, based on new research. She did not speak in favor of docking, but said there must be a perceived incentive, if farmers are practicing it.
“There’s no reason they would do it (dock) if it didn’t keep their cows cleaner,” she said. “This (6 years) gives the dairy industry time to do further research.”
The standards allow docking to continue beyond 2017, only if performed by a licensed veterinarian and if docking of the tail is determined to be medically necessary.
The standards for dairy and beef both address the condition of housing they are to be provided, which generally includes a clean and safe environment that promotes the health, welfare and performance of the cattle.
The board grappled briefly with the word “clean,” used to describe environments for both beef and dairy cattle. Board member Jeff Wuebker warned that such a word is subjective, and could become problematic if misused.
“Really think about how we will defend the word ‘clean’ in a standard on animals that aren’t trained like your dog or your cat,” he said.
State Veterinarian Tony Forshey, also a board member, argued that clean can be enforceable in the practical sense. Because it will be ODA staff who ultimately lead any investigations into cleanliness, he expressed his comfort with keeping the language.
“Clean is not squeaky clean,” he said. “Clean is clean enough to promote health, welfare, and (performance).”
The board also considered and re-worked language that previously said farmers “shall” protect their animals from adverse weather and predators.
The growing number of coyotes and black vultures make threats from predators virtually impossible to stop completely, board members noted.
And the reality of changing and variable weather conditions make perfectly controlled climates impractical, as well.
“You can attempt to provide protection but to ensure protection is an impossibility,” said Elizabeth Harsh, executive director of the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association.
The standards maintain the spirit of protection, but now include language such as “reasonable protection” and “seeks to prevent.”
Charles Lausin, chairman of the dairy subcommittee, said he felt good about the work of his group, and the actions of the board, which adopted the subcommittee’s recommendations.
He gave “a hearty thank you” to the care board and his subcommittee. “We’ve given our all and really wanted to represent the dairy industry as best we could and move this forward.”
The board will return its focus to veal standards at the March 1 meeting. Veal was one of the first standards the board formed, but the draft was mostly tabled to allow time to form species specific standards.
Director of Agriculture James Zehringer set March 1 as a deadline for the subcommittees to have their work completed. So far, nearly all committees have reported their findings to the board and appear on track to meet the deadline.
The full proposals of these standards can be reviewed and commented upon at www.agri.ohio.gov/proposedrules/proposedrules.aspx.