KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Cattle mobility is an important part of animal handling and welfare, Lily Edwards-Callaway, animal welfare specialist for JBS, told attendees of the North American Meat Institute’s Animal Care & Handling Conference yesterday in Kansas City.
Monitoring mobility of animals in feedlots and meat packing plants can be helpful in assessing the health and wellbeing of fed animals. It can also help identify the root cause of any issues that could be interfering with mobility of the animals.
“The challenge,” Edwards-Callway explained, “is having a consistent approach.”
In an attempt to create some consistency, the North American Meat Institute’s (NAMI) Animal Welfare Committee created a training video to help those who handle cattle to assess their mobility in a consistent manner, Edwards-Callaway explained.
The video was developed as a training tool using actual footage captured in commercial settings. According to NAMI, the video is intended to help teach mobility scoring, not to instruct viewers on how to establish benchmarks and recommend pass/fail criteria for mobility scoring.
The NAMI video explains the four categories of mobility.
• A score of 1 is for a normal animal. They walk easily with no apparent lameness and no change in gait.
• A score of 2 is given to an animal when it exhibits minor stiffness when it walks. These animals exhibit shortness of stride or a slight limp, but overall are able to keep up with normal cattle as they are moving.
• A score of 3 is given to an animal that exhibits obvious stiffness. The cattle will have difficulty taking steps, have an obvious limp and show obvious discomfort and will lag behind other cattle walking as a group.
• A score of 4 is given to an animal that appears statue like. They are extremely reluctant to move even when encouraged by a handler, because movement clearly causes discomfort.
• If an animal is unable to rise from a recumbent position they are called downer cows. They are humanely euthanized.
The role of mobility score evaluators is to simply record mobility scores, not to interact with the animals. Noting environmental factors such as temperature, surface areas and even sex of the animals could play a role in the scoring.
According to the video, “To use mobility scoring most effectively, the facility may wish to set procedures and frequencies for regular monitoring. By doing so the plant might find a deviation and can then seek to find out the root cause.”
Edwards-Callway explained that there are currently no standards for the percentage of animals that may display mobility or locomotion limitations because sufficient baseline data have not yet been collected widely. The data collection process is still in the works.
The video is available at the NAMI YouTube channel.
Look for more animal handling stories in the upcoming November issue of MEAT+POULTRY magazine.