Friday, July 2, 2010

Tail Docking

Reading other blogs and opinions on the internet, it seems there are many people out there that think all dairy farmers dock their cows tails. Let's get straight to the point: NOT ALL DAIRY FARMERS DOCK COWS TAILS. To add to that, we think it is an extremely small percentage that do. Legislation passed two years ago to make it illegal to dock cows tails in California. It is now an illegal practice in this state, with the exception of  special circumstances when the animal injures it's tail and it needs to be removed.

Tail docking was a management practice for some dairies as it was believed to improve the hygiene of the cow and the quality of the milk. The reasoning on this was without the long tails, they wouldn't be able to spread manure and mud around the area of the udder. Now, most dairymen trim the "switch" of the tail. It's the long-haired portion at the end of the tail. None of the actual tail is docked, they're just getting a haircut! This does help decrease the spread of mud and manure by it's tail.

The farm vet performed a recent surgery to amputate a cow's tail as she had broken it. This qualifies as an exception to the law. He thinks another cow may have stepped on it accidentally or she got it caught on a gate somehow. Whatever the case, she will be much more comfortable now. A broken tail is nearly impossible to try to fix on a cow. In this case the skin was broken so the best option was to amputate the tail to decrease pain and risk of infection. Below the farm vet is giving this cow an epidural so she will not feel the surgery.
The tail is scrubbed and disinfected before the surgery begins. You can see where the break is in the red circle.

Here the farm vet is about to make the initial incision.
After the bottom portion is amputated, the farm vet cauterized the area to stop the bleeding and reduce chance of infection. It all went well and the cow will now be more comfortable.

I'd like to end by wishing everyone a wonderful 4th of July weekend! We are so appreciative to live in such a beautiful country with freedom of speech and expression. Thank you to all of the people that have fought to keep it that way! As you know, the Farm Vet is English and so this is an ironic holiday for him to celebrate. :-) Here is a photo of the flags we had flying at our wedding to show our gratitude for our two great nations!

God Bless America (and Great Britain)!


  1. Grew up on a dairy farm and never heard of docking cows' tails. Thanks for clarifying.

  2. Didn't tail docking originate in NZ as a means of controlling Lepto? I was told that NZ dairymen were following cows to new grazing areas and noticed that the cows' tails 'splashed' urine; from there they theorized that docking would eliminate some of that risk.

  3. Hi Sally,
    I'm not sure where tail docking originated but I do know it is banned in New Zealand as well now. Like many dairy farmers here, they trim the switches. They also vaccinate for Lepto so that is their main control measure. I think the theory you mentioned about eliminating some risk of spreading the disease goes along with the theory here of cow cleanliness and enhanced milk quality. Thanks for your comment!