FORT COLLINS, Colo. – This article is to clarify evaluation of lame fed cattle at packing plants. In the article that was posted on on Friday, Sept. 6, I stated that there is a major problem from an animal welfare standpoint if more than 10 percent of the cattle being moved from the holding pens to the stunner have a score of 1 (mildly lame). We don’t want to get to the point where bad is normal. Lame and stiff cattle can’t be accepted as normal.

There are three different viewpoints on evaluating lameness associated with beta-agonists. They are:

• from an ethical animal welfare and right thing to do standpoint;
• USDA regulatory humane handling standpoint; and
• FDA regulatory standpoint.

From an ethical viewpoint, regardless of the cause, more than 10 percent lame feedlot cattle is not acceptable. There is no way I could justify this level of lameness to the public. In 2013, observations of 1,800 crossbred beef steers being loaded onto trucks to go to the packer had only 2 percent lame animals. The baseline level of lameness in feedlot cattle is low. Lameness must not be allowed to rise to the levels observed in some dairy cattle.

Regulatory Issues

Feedlot cattle that have a severe lameness issue due to beta-agonist administration also have the potential to cause USDA/FSIS regulatory issues at packing plants. Cattle that are more difficult to move may cause overuse of driving aids or electric prods. The FSIS regulation 9 GFR 312.2 states “any use of such implements” (referring to electric prods or other driving implements), which is, in the opinion of the inspector excessive, is prohibited.”

The other regulatory issue is with the FDA. I spent some time on the Internet to look up the FDA regulations on Serious Adverse Events and Adverse Drug Experience (ADE). The rules are similar for both veterinary and human drugs. Reporting of serious adverse events is mandatory and reporting of ADE’s is mostly voluntary. Some examples of serious adverse events are death, permanent damage to the body and life threatening events. ADE’s are less serious. There is an October 2004 article in FDA Veterinarian that is available on the Internet. The title is “How CVM uses Adverse Drug Experience Reports System.” ADE’s can range from mild to severe, but will be less severe than serious advance events. Reports of ADE’s may result in label changes.

Since the publication of my lameness scoring system by on Sept. 6, I have been contacted with some suggested changes to address FDA regulatory issues for the most Serious Adverse Events. Below I have a slightly revised lameness scoring system for beta-agonists. It also contains my suggestions for levels of lameness that would be ethical and regulatory concerns.

 Lameness Scoring System  
0 = Normal – stands and walks normally, long confident strides, easy to move, has a definite flight zone, and vigorous   

1 = Mildly Lame – Slightly stiff gait, slight sore footed, keeps up with normal cattle when the group is walking     


Ethical animal welfare concerns arise when the number of cattle in the “mildly lame” category exceeds 10 percent of the cattle from a single lot. There is an ethnical concern regardless of the cause of lameness


2 = Moderately lame – Lags behind and fails to keep up with normal cattle when the group is walking.  Head down during movement, all four feet sore, stiff gait. When at rest, animal may shift weight back and forth between different feet. Moderately lame categorized cattle represent a definite ethical animal welfare concern.

 3 = Severely Lame and Reluctant to Move – Limping, hard to move, reluctant to put weight on its feet.  No flight zone, has difficulty moving and handlers have to put their hands or driving aids on the animal to induce it to walk.  

After reading the FDA regulations, it was obvious to me that severely lame cattle would be an FDA-ADE. Must rule out an injury or other conditions obviously not related to beta-agonists.


4 = Adverse Effect – Includes cattle that are non-ambulatory and not able to stand, standing “statue” immobile and refuses to move, sloughed off hoof, tetany/convulsions or dead.            


Mandatory FDA Serious Adverse Event and must be reported if this event occurs in cattle fed beta-agonists.