Some of the key welfare issues affecting beef cattle that concern us are:
Some people assume that all beef cattle are kept outside in fields. However, many cattle need to be housed during winter, when the weather is bad and the grass is not growing, and some cattle may be reared entirely indoors. Very good management and well-maintained housing is important to avoid welfare problems. We have particular concerns about:
Cattle being tethered during winter housing
We believe this system should never be used.
Poor housing conditions
Can lead to respiratory (lung) problems, particularly in young cattle. Lack of space and poor lighting can also be issues. Money is not always available to allow farmers to make improvements to their housing.
Fully slatted flooring
Because cattle are ruminants they need to lie down regularly, and bare slatted flooring is uncomfortable.
We have concerns that some beef cattle may not receive an adequate diet. For example, intensively-reared bulls may not receive enough fibre, leading to metabolic diseases. It is very important to ensure that all beef cattle, whether indoors or outdoors, have adequate access to feed (especially fibre) and clean water.
Some continental beef cattle breeds have been bred to be more muscular in order to increase the amount of meat available. A combination of calves growing very large during pregnancy and the mothers having narrow pelvic canals can result in problems giving birth. Repeated caesarians may be needed to allow them to calve - any breed that cannot give birth without regular assistance has to be questioned on welfare grounds.
In some cases animals which are kept outside during winter (‘outwintered’) may not be inspected regularly enough and sick animals may not be spotted immediately.
Analgesia (pain relief) is sometimes not used for procedures such as dehorning mature animals. We believe that pain relief is very important during surgical procedures and for a period afterwards.
We also have concerns about lack of separate pens for sick animals on some farms and poor/lack of handling facilities. Electric goads are sometimes used to help move cattle, which we believe indicates that there is something wrong with the handling facilities, whether they are on the farm or in the abattoir.