Handling Compromised Animals

Livestock owners work hard to ensure their animals are properly cared for through all stages of production. Despite their best efforts some animals will become injured or sick, and decisions must be made.

Gregg Hanzlicek is a bovine veterinarian at Kansas State University. He says cattle are masters at hiding disease. They mingle with the herd to hide themselves, so it takes some keen observation to determine which animals need intervention. When you find them, consult with your veterinarian for treatment, and have a “hospital or sick pen” ready.

"Particularly animals that are down, that can’t get up , that are non ambulatory whether it’s an injury, or dystocia, or whatever. It’s important that producers understand that we can house them, it’s important that they’re on soft but secure footing, that fresh feed and especially water is hauled to those animals every day," he says. "It’s important once that they absolutely need our care, that we’re providing the care that they absolutely need."

Do what you can to minimize their discomfort. If they’re not getting better, you may have to make a tough decision. 

"For me and I think a lot of practitioner is, if that animal is not eating or drinking for a day, to two-days at the longest, then it’s probably time to think about humanely euthanizing the animal to prevent any further suffering for them," says Hanzlicek.

Hanzlicek urges every livestock owner to take part in livestock quality assurance programs. They will help with decision-making, early detection of problems, and addressing those problems in a timely manner.

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