Beef Cattle Health and Well Being: Animal Care & Compassion Statement

Concept Overview

Beliefs

All animals cared for and raised by our ranches will be done in accordance with a responsibility and respect those animals in our care are accorded. The ranches recognize we have a stewardship over these animals. With that stewardship comes the responsibility to care for the animal’s health and well being in a high standard and in accordance with accepted animal husbandry methodology. Efforts will always be made to supply the animals with sufficient food, water, and care in an environment that supports and enhances that general well being.

Environment

The ranch will be cared for and stewarded with the intent of perpetuity. By embracing sustainable grazing practices, an environment of care and understanding for the animal’s needs is cultivated; Herd Health and Low Stress living are components of the concept.

Nutrition

Raising healthy cattle is dependent on proper nutrition during the life of the animal. Primarily by grazing throughout the animal’s life, nutritional needs are met. Any supplementation need is accomplished via rations that are properly balanced for energy and protein. Supplemental trace minerals and vitamins will also be supplied as needed to maintain the health of the herd. Access to Fresh Water in a timely manner is important. All animal interactions (handling, processing, shipping, etc) will be performed with the need of water availability to those animals in a timely fashion being kept in mind. Attention will be given to environmental conditions and progress of the interaction so the cattle’s long term well being is not ignored or adversely impacted.

Animal Management

Cattle Handling

All animal handling is with the intent to be kept at the lowest stress level possible under the circumstances. Our Ranchers have an established network of resources on cattle care, which includes training and educational activities. With the help of self‐audits and / or external audits of animal care and handling procedures improvement will always be sought. Our producers and production partners are trained and competent handlers. Minimizing animal fear and stress during handling, transportation and processing is a key objective in calm handling.  As cattle producers,ranchers realize that handling procedures must be safe for the cattle and caretakers, taking into consideration the animal's natural response to stimuli.

Calving

Our cattle are born and raised on member ranches in as natural conditions as possible. Cows and heifers are allowed to calve in open pasture, taking advantage of natural shelters present, unless weather or possibility of calving difficulty dictates otherwise. Special attention is paid to the different trimesters thus fetal growth and cattle are provided with proper nutrition for that period of gestation. Younger, less proven cows are checked frequently for calving difficulties. Producers will contact a veterinarian for advice or assistance if cows or heifers have calving difficulties that cannot be corrected by the producer within a reasonable amount of time.

Branding

Cattle may be gathered, processed, and marked with identification at a young age. This may include branding, eartags, and/or ear notching.  All should be processed in accordance with a proper Herd Health Program which may include but not be limited to vaccinations and parasite control. The processing may also include dehorning and castrating. Herd plans should be made such to have these things done at an early age; preferably between 1 and 5 months of age. Efforts will be made to perform procedures important to the animals Health and Well Being at ages best suited.

Weaning

It is recommended that calves be weaned for a minimum of approximately 30 days prior to shipment to a stocker operation or feed yard. As during all parts of the animal’s life, with the reduction of stress in mind, calves will be provided with proper pre and post‐weaning nutrition and constant access to fresh feed and water. It is strongly recommended that cattle be vaccinated against respiratory and other diseases in accordance with a comprehensive health plan prior to weaning. Fence line weaning or other forms of low‐stress weaning are encouraged.

Treatment of sick or injured animals

Antimicrobials, ionophores, and hormones, may be used from time to time in the calf’s life. This use will be in accordance with correct use and any withdrawal times prior to the animal being slaughtered will be observed.  High risk cattle will be reviewed daily for illness, lameness or other problems.  With extreme cases, cattle may be checked several times daily (Appropriate medication use is reserved to treatment of those occasional illnesses and is not a substitute for healthy management and living conditions.) In the uncommon event an animal becomes injured on the ranch, the animal shall receive immediate individual treatment designed to minimize pain and discomfort. This may include veterinary treatment if the rancher is unable to provide relief. A prompt diagnosis is to be made to determine whether the animal should receive additional care or be humanely euthanized.   

Program and Process Overview

Transportation

Understanding the loading and transportation process is critical in assuring the safety and comfort of cattle and the protection of ranchers. Properly designed and maintained loading facilities and chutes are important for easy and safe animal movement. All transportation equipment used to transport cattle shall be regularly inspected for the safety of personnel and cattle during loading, transportation and unloading. This includes flooring, gates, and latches. The trailer or other conveyance must be clean and in good condition, provide adequate ventilation, and have a solid floor. Cattle must be loaded to safe load levels with regard to animal weight and space allocation associated with transportation vehicle used. Livestock shall have access to water as close to loading time as is possible. If animals are in transit for more than 24 hours, they shall have access to feed and water and be able to rest. Any cattle unfit for travel shall not be loaded.

Load Plans will be in accordance with industry accepted levels for trucks, trailers, and overseas containers (“Cowtainer”). Management, at the time of loading, will review the conditions of the animals and weather and make any adjustments needed.

Stocker Program

While making the transition into a stocker program, cattle shall receive a proper Herd Health Program which may include but not be limited to vaccinations and parasite control. If part of the program is to include a Bunker / Feed Trough form of feeding, the cattle are to be fed a balanced ration at least once daily with special care taken to avoid sudden changes in the type or amount of ration. Efforts should be made to supply the Cattle with 10 inches of bunk space per animal and over 300 square feet pen/field space per animal. Cattle shall be checked daily for illness, lameness or other problems.

Feedlot

Upon entering the feedlot, cattle shall receive a proper Herd Health Program which may include but not be limited to vaccinations and parasite control. Cattle shall be checked daily by feedlot employees for illness, lameness or other problems. Cattle shall be fed on a schedule in accordance with the feedyard management plan with care being taken to avoid a sudden change in type or amount of ration. The average bunk space is 10 to 12 inches per animal. During the cooler months, cattle have an average of 275‐300 square feet per animal. Due to dust and other factors, cattle have a minimum of 125 square feet during the warmer months. During periods of high heat and humidity or extreme cold and wetness, actions are taken to minimize the effects of this stress on cattle. Pens are to be scraped and mounded as conditions require, providing increased comfort and reduction of mud buildup. Sick animals are moved to the hospital facility where they receive the necessary care under the consultation of a licensed veterinarian. (Animals close to the hospital pen are walked. Cattle from pens farther away may be loaded into an animal ambulance and transported to the hospital.) Animals moved to the hospital pen will be treated in accordance with the health protocols as outlined by the feedyard’s consulting veterinarian. (Animals enrolled in “Natural” beef programs will be identified and separated from those animals supplied to those natural markets.)

Animal Processing

Processing Standards

Low stress processing is a high priority. Abuse of animals under any circumstances is not acceptable. Procedures should be performed in a precise, rapid and yet complete manner minimizing stress in the animal. Speed is not the goal but rather efficiency. All processing should be performed by a seasoned and experienced crew. Any new people shall be taught, stewarded, and mentored until they become proficient in those skills. (An example of a specific Herd Health Program may be found in the general Hawaiian Ranching Herd Health Recommendation documents. All processing of cattle will be done in accordance with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Quality Assurance Guidelines.)

When it is necessary to separate the young calves from their mothers to work the herd, efforts will be made to reunite the pair as quickly as possible; a goal is set of no longer than 8 hours. In the event that a separation is done overnight for reproductive management, fence line access to each other will be available. At no time will the separation last longer than 18 hours. When generally working a herd, attention to the stress minimization will be given. This will be measured by monitoring the level of animals bawling. The goal is to have less than 30% at any given time calling or exhibiting signs of concerning stress. (Signs of a calm state in the herd could be demonstrated by laying down, standing still without having ears erect, chewing their cuds, grazing, etc.)

Facilities

Facilities on ranches often predate our more recent animal handling knowledge and skill.   Hawaii Cattlemen Council Ranchers recognize that the handler’s expertise and education is critical and has more influence on the correct handling and stress levels of the animals than the facilities.  When ranchers and employees are working animals the following must occur:

  • Practice quiet handling, minimizing noises
  • Take advantage of cattle's flight zone and point of balance during movement.
  • Non‐electric driving aids, such as plastic paddles, sorting sticks, flags or streamers should be used to quietly guide and turn animals. When cattle continuously balk, cattle handlers should investigate and correct the reason.
  • Minimize the use of electric prods. Under desirable conditions, ninety percent or more of cattle should flow through cattle handling systems without their use.
  • Animals will not be held in pens over 18 hours without access to water.
  • In the event an animal must be held back from the herd, consideration will be given to having an additional herdmate held back to keep them company and minimize stress.

Castration, Disbudding, Identification

Procedures such as castration and disbudding / dehorning are done for the protection of that animal, other cattle in the herd and the people who handle the cattle. It is strongly recommended that castration of calves as well as disbudding (removal of early horn growth) be done at the earliest age reasonably possible. If cattle are branded, it should be accomplished quickly, expertly and with the proper equipment and technique. Ear marking may be used to identify cattle.

Slaughter

Harvesting Standards

Humane processing is a priority. This is carried out with great respect and is to be immediate and complete without generating fear or pain in the animal's final moments. The entire process is under a U.S.D.A. approved quality control program for humane handling and processing.

Future

Direction and Program Evolution

As the industry works to improve Beef Cattle Health and Well Being, procedures and management methodology will continue to be reviewed and refined in all programs and applications. Training and Certification Programs will be developed and implemented for the industry. Changes will be made based upon sound research and scientifically founded information.

Beef Cattle Health and Well Being is Hawaii Cattleman’s Council highest priority.

HCC does its best to keep up on every issue!  If you have an issue that needs attention, please give us a call or email us! We will do our best to work with you to deal with these issues.