Beef expert says time to walk the walk for animal welfare

2012-02-23T11:19:00Z 2012-02-23T11:22:26Z Beef expert says time to walk the walk for animal welfareBy Terry Anderson, Midwest Producer News Editor Midwest Producer

LINCOLN, Neb. - The cattle industry has talked the talk and now needs to walk the walk, a new beef expert at Kansas State University told those who attended a series of animal welfare seminars across Nebraska.

"We need to always get better and make changes for the right reasons," said Kim Stackhouse-Lawson, who arrived at Manhattan last fall as a postdoctoral fellow at the Beef Cattle Institute at KSU and also serves as the project manager of the U.S. Beef Sustainability Project for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

The Animal Welfare and Current Industry Issues for Livestock Producers program was held at four locations in Nebraska, presented by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension.

Talking the talk has included advocating agriculture and creating an economy, which she said beef checkoff dollars have done.

"There's been a race to put the flag in the ground, that the public should listen to 'our group'," said the Northern California native.

Critical to walking the walk will be to define "normal," she said. "Do we know the culture we're after?"

Documentation is an important step in that process.

"The things we do every day we just need to write down and put in a folder," she said. "It's good to be documented and good to protect ourselves. Then let's pick two or three things and change the culture. There's no need to think about everything we do."

An example of changing the culture was moving injection sites on cattle from the rump to the neck, she explained.

Training personnel is a problem because of high turnover rates, she said. Training manuals are the least successful. Audio-visual training is good because it can be available anytime online. Bilingual training will continue to grow in importance, as will being able to trace the training.

Feedlot conditions may call for rubber flooring to reduce slick surfaces, and increased efforts to keep water troughs clean and fresh.

Stackhouse-Lawson's colleague at K-State, veterinarian Dan Thomson, has a walking-the-walk list, which is topped with "Stop doing dumb things," she said. Don't do things you wouldn't want seen on a video.

"We need to start shifting the culture from doing dumb things," she said.

Another huge line item deals with castration and dehorning. Both need to be done at a younger age with less-stressful procedures, she said. Handling sloppy feedlots will benefit cattle, as will heat relief.

"We need to benchmark where we're at today," she said. "You don't need to tackle castration and dehorning and heat stress and mud. Pick two."

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