Bovis ISSN 2398-2993

Tail amputation

Contributor(s): Ash Phipps , Adam Dunstan-Martin

Introduction

  • Tail amputation involves the surgical removal of the tail.
  • Anecdotal reports have suggested that the practice of routine tail amputation of dairy cattle improves working conditions for milking personnel (reduced tail switching at milking), improves udder cleanliness, reduces the risk of mastitis, improves milk quality and may reduce the transmission of leptospirosis to humans from cows. Research has failed to support these anecdotal reports and therefore there is little to gain from the practice of routine tail amputation in dairy cattle. 
  • Ethical and animals welfare concerns exist with the practice of routine tail amputation as it is an invasive procedure that may only improve milking personnel comfort. The practice in cattle is associated with short term adverse effects of acute pain and distress and possible long term adverse effects of increased tail sensitivity, development of neuromas and chronic pain and increased frequency of fly avoidance behaviors.   
  • Tail amputation as a routine procedure is not permitted in many countries around the world.
  • In the author’s opinion, the procedure should be reserved for the therapeutic reasons outlined below.

Uses

  • Removal of the tail may be indicated in the following situation:
    • As a result of tail paralysis due to sacral fracture and subsequent damage to the caudal coccygeal nerve.
    • Severe tail injury due to trauma .
    • Circumferential ischemic injury due to fecal build up.
    • Circumferential ischemic injury due to tail tape.
  • Neoplasia of the tail.

Advantages

  • Relatively straight-forward technique to carry out.
  • Successful surgery results in the animal remaining in the herd.

Disadvantages

  • Cosmetically may be unsatisfactory due to the physical removal of the tail.
  • Removal of the tail does not allow the animal to express the natural behaviour of tail swishing. 

Requirements

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Preparation

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Procedure

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Aftercare

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Outcomes

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Prognosis

  • Good: low incidence of complications.

Further Reading

Publications

Other sources of information

  • Cattle Standards and Guidelines Writing Group (2013) Cattle Standards and Guidelines- Tail Docking of Dairy Cows Discussion Paper. Accessed 5 April 2016. Available at: www.animalwelfarestandards.net.
  • Anderson D E & Rings M (2008) Current veterinary therapy: food animal practice. Elsevier Health Sciences.
  • Divers T J & Peek S (2007) Rebhun's diseases of dairy cattle. Elsevier Health Sciences.
  • Fubini S L & Ducharme N (2004) Farm animal surgery. Elsevier Health Sciences.

Other sources of information

  • American Veterinary Medical Association (2014) Welfare Implications of Tail Docking of Cattle; Literature review. [online] Last accessed 4 January 2018. Available at: www.avma.org/.


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