Dairy Group Develops Down Cow Handling Protocols

Dairy Business Association responds to questions from dairy farmers about handling down cows

Published on: Mar 3, 2014

At the Dairy Business Association's Access Symposium earlier this month in Green Bay, Wis., farmers were wondering: what's the best way to handle down cows?

The Green Bay-based DBA, along with ANIMART, Inc., have teamed up to provide answers to handling questions and disseminate that information to farmers.

Because of down cow challenges farmers face, there is a great need for standard operating procedures that are practical and meet animal handling standards, Dr. Mike Costin of ANIMART, explained.

"In today's modern dairy facilities, 'down cows' are a fact of life. Many reasons can cause a cow to go down ranging from disease and injury, to a simple slip on the concrete," Costin says. "Simply stated, there is no easy way to handle a down cow or this situation. Adding to the challenge is many outside entities are increasing focus on how you address this challenge." 

Dairy Business Association responds to questions from dairy farmers about handling down cows
Dairy Business Association responds to questions from dairy farmers about handling down cows

Dr. Costin and ANIMART have developed a down cow "Standard Operating Procedures" document to share with the dairy industry.

The SOP discusses five areas for effective handling of a down cow:
• Moving a down cow using a sled
• Moving a down cow by means of mechanical conveyance
• Moving a down cow out of the parlor
• Moving a down cow out of the return alley; and
• Moving a down cow out of a stall, cow facing forward

The SOP also discusses keys to establishing a down cow team and humane euthanasia. ANIMART spent more than 500 hours in the development and discussion of this SOP.

"We believe in working together as an Industry to empower producers is the best approach; and to this end we have made an example of Dr. Costin's Down Cow SOP available to the public through the Dairy Business Association," commented Dan Ellsworth, President of ANIMART.

"In addition, we are providing this so other veterinarians may use it as a guideline to set up farm specific SOPs for their clients with or without our direct involvement," Ellsworth said.

Laurie Fischer, the Dairy Business Association Executive Director said the SOP is timely, given recent undercover videos.

"So many dairy producers were concerned about the absolute best ways on how to handle down and sick cattle," Fischer said. "I am so pleased that our industry now has a protocol that can be used by dairy producers from around the county."

View the ANIMART Down Cow Standard Operation Procedures.