Cortisol responses of calves to two methods of tail docking used with or without local anaesthetic

Cortisol responses of calves to two methods of tail docking used with or without local anaesthetic
Peer reviewed

Abstract

Tail docking of dairy cows to facilitate milking is carried out on calves or on heifers before calving. By monitoring changes in plasma cortisol concentrations, this study evaluated the distress in calves when docked by a rubber ring or docking iron (cautery) with or without local anaesthetic. The cortisol responses indicated that in most calves docking using a rubber ring or docking iron was no more distressing than control handling and simulated docking. A small proportion of calves in control and tail docked groups exhibited larger cortisol responses, the magnitudes of which suggested that they experienced some mild distress. There was no detectable benefit with either method of docking when local anaesthetic was used. The rubber ring is the preferable method, as there was some haemorrhage after docking with the docking iron.

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