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What’s up: Dock? ... or no dock? (Editorial)
(July 7, 2015) Two Delaware lawmakers have introduced legislation to essentially prohibit Delaware dairy farmers from tail docking their cows.
The animal welfare police strike again.
The legisation, HB 189, introduced by Rep. Andria Bennett and Sen. Karen Peterson, reads as follows:
“... b) Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, a person shall not dock the tail of any dairy cattle, or procure the same to be done, except as provided in subsection (c) of this section.
(c) Dairy cattle tail docking may be performed if:
(1) Such procedure is performed for a therapeutic purpose;
(2) The procedure is performed by a licensed veterinarian using suitable instruments and under hygienic conditions;
(3) The dairy cattle has been adequately anesthetized to minimize the animal’s pain and suffering during the operation; and
(4) The procedure is conducted in such a way as to minimize any long-term pain and suffering of the animal. ...”
It specifies that a violation would be a class A misdemeanor.
A class A misdemeanor is the most serious type of misdemeanor in Delaware, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,300. There are valid arguments for and against tail docking and it is certainly not universally employed by dairymen.
The tail is an important tool for protecting the cow from flies.
Research shows that docked cows spend considerably more time than intact cows in fly avoidance behavior and that inability to swat flies results in greater fly numbers on docked versus intact cows.
Fly avoidance behavior can disturb rumination, milk production and grazing.
Tail docking is not a universal practice in the North American dairy industry but some farmers employ it, often when they do not graze their cattle.
These farmers will testify that tail docking helps maintain the cleanliness of the cows and the purity of the milk.
The farmers’ hands stay cleaner and the udder area stays cleaner as well.
Farmers who are milking are able to avoid switches that may be dirty or have manure and other contaminants from coming in contact with their hands, face and body thereby reducing the chance of contaminating the milking area and milking equipment.
Farmers who dock usually spend extra effort and money in fly and pest control in the barns.
HB 189 was the subject of a hearing earlier this month before the Delaware Judiciary Committee.
Fortunately, it was tabled.
We hope it stays that way.
Does a farmer dock or not dock?
It’s up to the farmer. It is none of the government’s business.